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Sabres battle through adversity to earn road point in Columbus

Ullmark makes 40 saves in overtime loss

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

COLUMBUS - It took three games, but the Sabres finally got their first taste of adversity. 

After not trailing at all in a pair of season-opening wins, the Sabres trailed the Columbus Blue Jackets twice inside Nationwide Arena on Monday. They erased a two-goal deficit in the second period and forced overtime after going down by one in the third. 

Alexandre Texier ultimately capitalized on a defensive-zone turnover in overtime to hand the Sabres their first loss of the season, 4-3. Despite the outcome, Marcus Johansson saw a silver lining in the way his team grinded out a road point on an otherwise off night.

"We let them do their thing and got away from our game a little bit," Johansson said. "It cost us, but I think we showed a lot of character to come back into this game. Even if it didn't end the way we wanted it to, we got one point out of it and I think that was big. 

"It showed character in this room and there's no quit. So, it's a big one point."

Video: BUF Recap: Sabres' late rally falls short in OT loss

Sabres coach Ralph Krueger predicted the game would be tightly contested. The Blue Jackets were coming off losses in their first two games and had been stressing the need to get back to the patient, hard-working style that led them to playoff appearances in each of the last three seasons. 

The Blue Jackets began the game looking a lot like the Sabres had in their first two contests. They attacked aggressively and applied pressure until they ultimately broke through with a pair of goals from Oliver Bjorkstrand and Cam Atkinson in the final 1:51 of the first period. 

"They were really in a corner," Krueger said. "We all know that. They came out fighting like that and we played too complicated. It was our management of the puck that really caused us the stress and pushed us back into our end.

"Against a team that played a good game, let's give them credit for really battling hard today and for playing an A-game. Again, to get a point in the end is actually a sign of character. If we can learn lessons still taking a point, that's not bad."

The Sabres tied the game in the second period on the strength of a power-play goal by Johansson and an incredible individual effort from Jeff Skinner, who stripped defenseman Ryan Murray from behind to create a breakaway for his second goal in as many games.

Video: BUF@CBJ: Skinner steals puck, nets wrist shot

Foligno scored a power-play goal early in the third to reclaim the lead for the Blue Jackets, but the Sabres responded once again on a power play of their own with 1:14 remaining. Krueger pulled goalie Linus Ullmark to give his team a 6-on-4 advantage and Victor Olofsson capitalized from the right circle.

"We just knew that we weren't playing at all close to our capabilities and what we wanted to do," Johansson said. "We knew if we changed that and we got out and played the way we want to, the way we did in the first two games, I think we knew that we would have the chance to get back into it. 

"We got back to it a little bit and we got back into the game. So, it proves that what we've been doing is working and when we don't do it, it's not working."


Ullmark steals the show

Johansson said the Sabres would not have gotten a point if not for the performance of Linus Ullmark, who made 40 saves in his season debut. 

Ullmark set the tone with a breakaway stop on Alexander Wennberg with the Sabres on the power play in the first period and continued to make key saves to keep his team within shouting distance throughout regulation. 

Video: BUF@CBJ: Ullmark denies Wennberg's breakaway chance

"Linus gave us a chance," Krueger said. "Overall, for me, it was an off night and if on off nights we dig out points on the road like this, we can learn with some pain but not as much as we maybe could have had if Linus didn't play that way."


Olofsson nets his third

Olofsson passed the puck back and forth with Rasmus Dahlin three times before finally letting go of his game-tying shot from the right circle. Skinner screened Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo to help the rookie find the back of the net for his third goal in as many games.

Video: BUF@CBJ: Olofsson ties game late with PPG

"They were kind of taking [Jack Eichel] away, so me and Rasmus had a lot of space to work with," Olofsson said. "Just trying to find that one-timer through. It wasn't the greatest shot, but I had some good screens in front and it went in."


Up next

The Sabres return home to host the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday. Pregame coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m., or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7. 

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