Game #3 Recap: Jackets Feast on Buffalo

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Jackets saw the return of Jared Boll to the lineup, and thanks to excellent performances from the top two lines, the Jackets skated away with a victory in Buffalo.

It didn't take the Jackets long to get the party started, with Cam Atkinson tallying his first goal of the season. Cam set up shop in the expanded area behind the net, and when an option in front of the net failed to present itself, Cam flipped the puck to rookie Ryan Murray, stationed at the left point. Murray went cross-ice to his defensive partner James Wisniewski, who fed the puck to Marian Gaborik between the circles. Gaby fired a wrister, finding iron. The puck fell dead to the ice, where Cam was there to seal the deal.

1-0 Jackets: Atkinson- Gaborik, Wisniewski

In response, the Sabres deployed noted shithead Patrick Kaleta and tough guy Cody McCormick to prevent the Jackets from building on any momentum gained from the early goal. Kaleta clipped Jack Johnson high, and Jared Boll-in his first shift of the season-dropped the gloves in retaliation. Boller landed a pair of shots, but it wasn't much of a fight. At the same time, Dalton Prout and McCormick threw down, and though McCormick landed a few heavy blows, Prouter didn't flinch, and used his strength to keep McCormick at bay.

The move seemed to work, from a Buffalo perspective. The Sabres ramped up their energy, and started to dictate the play more. In what is turning into a troublesome pattern, the Jackets began to unravel in the defensive zone when the pressure increased. Passes out of the zone were off-target, guys were out of position and the easy play was anything but. This unsustainable play bit the Jackets 8:50 in, with Thomas Vanek scoring a beauty between-the-legs goal after being left alone out front. He was Nikita Nikitin's man, and though Nikki was without a stick, rather than mark Vanek tight he looked lost in the slot, shifting back-and-forth on his skates, and making a turn away from the net, as Vanek was left alone to tie the game.

1-1: Vanek- Ott, Hodgson

The Jackets weren't fazed by this miscue, and shortly after Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno broke out on a 2-on-1. They crashed the net, and though it didn't appear that the puck went in, a review was performed upstairs, and to the surprise of nobody, was deemed no-goal.

The Johansen line, or at very least Joey and Foligno, really started to click. Their hard work paid off later in the period, when after some give-and-go behind Ryan Miller, Foligno wrapped the puck around, sending it into the net off of a Buffalo skater.

2-1 Jackets: Foligno- Johansen, Umberger

One of the keys for the Jackets to be successful this year is production from the second and third lines. As discussed on this blog recently, it's a make-or-break year for Johansen.

In an example of why SPEED KILLS, the Jackets took a two goal lead moments later. With Tyler Myers pinching in the Columbus zone, the puck made its way to Ryan Murray. He dumped the puck to open space near center ice, where it was gathered by Atkinson. Cam and Gaby both turned on the afterburners when Murray flipped the puck out, and their speed created a two-on-one. Cam out-waited a sliding Mike Weber, and fed Gaby for the one-time snapper past Miller. Murray's assist on the goal was his first NHL point.

3-1 Jackets: Gaborik- Atkinson, Murray

The Sabres came out flying to start the second period, but it was the Jackets who got on the board. Brandon Dubinsky carried the puck into the zone, dropping for Gaborik. Gaby sent the puck right back to Dubinsky, who was turning into the slot. After dummying Zemgus Girgensons, he slipped the puck to David Savard at the point. Savvy's wrister was kicked into the slot by Miller, where Dubi was there to fire a backhand into the net.

4-1 Jackets: Dubinsky- Savard, Gaborik

Midway through the period, the NHL's war room was tasked again with reviewing a goal. This time around, Johansen's wrist shot was snagged by Miller's glove, but the glove was behind Miller, and was seemingly over the goal line. It was inconclusive, so no-goal.

Mike Weber, who as far as I knew didn't have a reputation for being a D-bag, at least temporarily lost his marbles, tripping up Foligno along the boards. He followed the trip up with a stinky face, then a cross check, then another, and another to Foligno's back as he got to his feet. Needless to say, Foligno took exception and the two dropped their mitts. It wasn't much of a fight, but man, was that stupid of Weber. He picked up an extra two minutes, but the Jackets were unable to convert on the powerplay. Too cute.

Moments later the Jackets returned to the powerplay with Tyler Myers in the box. The Jackets displayed good movement, and quite frankly, should have scored their fifth goal of the game. Cam found Gaborik to Miller's left. Miller dropped, and with the gaping net staring at him, Gaby had all day to fire the puck in the net. He misfired, unable to lift the puck over Miller's glove, which was flat along the ice.

One of the benefits of having Jared Boll in the lineup is his ability to draw penalties. He did just that, as he was leaving the ice on a change. Marcus Foligno felt the need to slash, then interfere with Boller as he headed to the bench. Foligno the Lesser was given 2 and 2 for interference and unsportsmanlike. The Jackets again had plenty of good movement, but not enough shots while up a man.

The first few minutes of the final period saw more back-and-forth hockey than we'd seen all night, but Buffalo made a push that lasted until midway through the period. They had the Jackets on their heels, but Bob slammed the door shut.

At one point, Vanek slipped in behind the Columbus defense at center ice, sprung on a breakaway. Interestingly, Vanek chose the mid-range slapper, rather than a deke, and Bob easily kicked the puck away.

With eight minutes to go, Blake Comeau was sent to the box, giving the Sabres their first powerplay of the game. The Jackets were excellent on the 'kill, holding the Sabres to one shot. Good to great special teams will be essential for the Jackets to make the playoffs in the unforgiving Metropolitan Division.

With a three goal lead, Todd Richards gave his bottom six forwards plenty of ice time to close out the game.

Final Score: 4-1 Jackets

Leftovers:

  • Buffalo is slowly building something special. Guys like Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov, Tyler Myers, not to mention Mark Pysyk and Jake McCabe are the foundation of a very good blueline. Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis,Mikhail Grigorenko, Zemgus Girgensons and Joel Armia bring a little bit of everything up front. If/when Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller are traded, they will likely bring even more good young assets in return. Buffalo fans shouldn't have to wait long for the Sabres to be good again.
  • I almost feel like Arty's being wasted. He's very good defensively, so he makes sense as third line center, but he also possesses a very high level of offensive ability. Playing with Blake Comeau and Matt Calvert as his wingers won't lead to much in the way of offense. The question is though, where else do you put him? Or do you just give him plenty of powerplay time to utilize his offense?
  • Off topic, but for crying out loud, leave San Jose's Tomas Hertl alone. I LOVE that he scored a cheeky one for this fourth OF THE GAME. He's still a kid, and he was having a phenomenal night. Don't bitch and whine about the lack of scoring and excitement in the NHL, and then give Hertl a hard time for bringing both in spades. His coaches no doubt have talked to him about being respectful, let's just enjoy what the kid pulled off.

Standard Bearers:

  • Marian Gaborik was awesome..again. Three points tonight, he's in line for a big year.
  • Cam Atkinson seems like a perfect fit opposite of Gaby. His speed and skill meshes well with #10.
  • Congrats to Ryan Murray on his first NHL point!
  • Nick Foligno one-ups his brother, scoring a goal in his home town.

Bottom of the Barrel:

  • The Columbus defense still has work to do. The chemistry and communication seems to be lacking. They Jackets did tighten things up as the game wore on, but against top-notch opposition they'll get burned if they continue to show bad habits.
  • Boone Jenner in the press box. It's only been one game, but this can't be a trend. The kid needs to play. If not in Columbus, then in Springfield.
  • Nikki on Buffalo's goal. I know you lost your stick, Nikki, but WTF?

The Jackets return home to take on the Boston Bruins on Saturday. We'll see you then!

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