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Sabres battle back to earn point in Columbus

Buffalo scores twice in the 3rd period to force overtime

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

COLUMBUS - Down two goals after the second period on Saturday, the Buffalo Sabres knew they had to come out with a stronger third period if they wanted to take home at least a point against the Colubmus Blue Jackets.

And they were able to do just that to force overtime in what ended up being a 5-4 loss in the extra period. 

Kyle Okposo, Jeff Skinner, Jason Pominville and Casey Mittelstadt scored for Buffalo with Pominville and Mittelstadt's goals coming in that third period comeback to extend Buffalo's point streak to four games. They're now 3-0-1 in that stretch. 

However, Columbus' Artemi Panarin stole the show with two goals and an assist, including the overtime winner. 

"We were way too loose. We're not going to win a lot of hockey games playing like that," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "We know that and that's one thing we can take forward here.

"But being on the road and being down two against a good hockey team, we found a way to earn a point. We'll learn from the mistakes that we made obviously, but we've got to take credit where credit's due. I thought we did a terrific job battling back on the road to get a point." 

The Sabres started out of the gate strong. With Evan Rodrigues back in Buffalo for personal reasons, Tage Thompson returned to the lineup and immediately made an impact. 

Video: BUF@CBJ: Okposo nets Thompson's pass for opening goal

Thompson started a rush out of the Sabres end and streaked down the left wing on a 2-on-1 with Okposo. He pulled up and waited for defenseman Markus Nutivaara to go down before reaching around the sliding Blue Jacket and feeding Okposo with a backhand pass to put the Sabres ahead 1-0 just 1:38 into the game.

 Video: BUF@CBJ: Skinner pots bouncing puck from sharp angle

Buffalo took a 2-1 lead on a goal from Skinner with 5:49 left in the first. A shot from the left point by Jake McCabe got deflected by a Columbus player in front and right onto the stick of Skinner for a one-timer.

Columbus challenged the goal with the hopes that Rasmus Ristolainen didn't keep the puck in at the right point a few seconds before the goal. It was his dump in on that play that whipped around the boards to Eichel, who passed it back to McCabe. 

To say the first period was a busy one might be an understatement. Shots were 17-12 (and shot attempts were 26-24) in favor of the Sabres after one. But Columbus started off the second period with a quick goal and dominated play for most of the period.

Video: Jason Pominville Postgame (10/27/18)

Turnovers along the boards as the Sabres tried to exit their zone led to the first two Columbus goals. Columbus' first tied the game when Panarin picked off a pass off the boards just outside the Sabres blue line, danced inside the Sabres zone and fed Pierre-Luc Dubois for his third of the year.

Panarin scored 1:34 into the second period to tie the game, this time taking a pass from Dubois to beat Ullmark. 

Cam Atkinson added two more in the second for Columbus 31 seconds apart with 3:18 and 2:47 remaining, respectively, to take the lead and give his club some breathing room heading into the third. Jack Eichel had a breakaway chance at the end of the period and managed to get a shot off just before the horn sounded, but Korpisalo was able to turn it aside. 

Video: BUF@CBJ: Pominville beats Korpisalo short side

But then, 2:32 into the third, captain Jack Eichel collected a puck off the end boards and made a behind-the-back pass in the slot to Pominville, who buried it for his fifth of the season. And then, 1:58 later on the power play, Mittelstadt was credited with his first of the season when he poked at a loose puck in front of the net. It was on a shot, he said, that may have been given an extra push by Skinner.

Video: BUF@CBJ: Mittelstadt punches rebound home for PPG

"We weren't happy with how we played in the second. It was important to come out and get one early," Mittelstadt said. "Eichs made a nice play to Pommer and kind of got us going there. ...It was definitely good for us to come back, at least get a point there. Would've been nice to win in overtime, but the point's definitely huge."

While they outshot Columbus 13-8 in the third, Housley estimates that the Sabres outchanced the Blue Jackets 9-3 in the period.  

Video: Casey Mittelstadt Postgame (10/27/18)

In overtime, Panarin captalized on some offensive zone time 29 seconds in and put a shot bar down on Linus Ullmark, who made 32 saves.

"[Panarin] was good. He's obviously a guy we talked a lot about before the game. He's a good 1-on-1 player, makes a lot of plays," Pominville said. "Probably could've done a better job against him, but he's an elite player. He's going to find a way to make plays. He definitely did tonight."   

Video: Phil Housley Postgame (10/27/18)

Housley knows there was a lot in the game that needs to be cleaned up. However, he also felt it was important to emphasize the positives. 

"We just got back to what we did in the first. Obviously we gave up too much odd-man rush opportunities, but I thought we got the puck in and we started working and controlling the play down low," Housley said. "Obviously our special teams were good tonight, maybe not the first couple or three power plays, but they came through in the end there.

"But we can't, in the second period, there, that was uncharactersitc of how we played the last three or four games. Just got away from it and it cost us, but I give credit to our guys for finding a way to battle back. We would've loved to win that game in overtime, but getting a point after being two [goals] down going into the third period says a lot about our group."

The Sabres will return to practice on Monday before they host the Calgary Flames on Tuesday at KeyBank Center.

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