BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Fresh off a win over Detroit and playing back-to-back games, Columbus winger Cam Atkinson said the Blue Jackets needed to jump on the Sabres early.
They did, scoring the opening tally in the first period while adding three more in the second to snap the Sabres’ two-game winning streak with a 5-1 win on Wednesday.
Seth Griffith scored the lone goal for the Sabres, who drop to 3-6-2 overall on the season.
Trailing 1-0 in the second Ryan O’Reilly provided Buffalo’s best early scoring opportunity in the frame with a breakaway chance on net-minder Sergei Bobrovsky.
O’Reilly skated in by himself and fired in on Bobrovsky, who extended his right pad leg to send the puck high and over the net.
Jason Pominville followed that up by threading a puck through the crease to Benoit Pouliot, who couldn’t bury the feed. O’Reilly had one more opportunity to tie the game at one, before Bobrovsky turned him away for a second time.
Columbus scored three times in the final five minutes of the second period to open up a 4-0 lead on goals from Seth Jones, Nick Foligno and Matt Calvert.
For the fourth game this season, Jack Eichel registered two or fewer shots. For a team that is need of primary scoring, that’s not enough for the Sabres star centerman.
Eichel’s 29 shots this season are second on the team behind Evander Kane’s 55. Ryan O’Reilly also has 32, Marco Scandella 25 and Rasmus Ristolainen 23.
Kane tallied for one shot on goal marking the second time that’s happened in a game this season. He was also held to one in Buffalo’s loss to San Jose on Oct. 12.
Those numbers have to change, especially for Eichel, as the Sabres scoring struggles continue.
If once is an accident and twice is a trend, the Sabres have a troubling trend on defense: They don’t clear out the front of the net, and let opposing players either A) Get a clean screen on either Robin Lehner or Chad Johnson or B) Let opposing players go unchallenged in the blue area and get free chances to score.
That was no different Wednesday. On Columbus’ first goal, Boone Jenner was standing alone and screening Johnson.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat for their second goal. Evander Kane did his best to backcheck, but Jenner was once again alone out front as Seth Jones’ shot ripped through to give Columbus a 2-0 lead.
Much like their ability to give up short handed goals, not getting a body on a player in their own crease isn’t helping the cause.
Newly called up defenseman Zach Redmond was eager to jump in on the rush and try to create some sort of offense for the Sabres early on.
Redmond finished with five shots on goal, tied for the most in the loss to the Blue Jackets along with Ryan O’Reilly and Jason Pominville.
It’s still not the greatest start the Sabres have had in recent years, but it’s not the end of the world.
I’ve repeatedly Tweeted about it, but the Blue and Gold overcame an atrocious October during the 2010-2011 season (3-7-2) and managed to rally and make the postseason.
With the loss against Columbus, Buffalo is 3-6-2 and fifth in the Atlantic Division with eight points.
Detroit is one spot ahead with nine points and Ottawa fourth with 12 points and has two games in hand.
The gap could be bridged, but unless the Sabres turn the corner it’s far less humorous to Tweet about the bad start and hopeful strong finish with no clear sign of the Sabres improving.