April 8, 2014. "Johansen Turns Pass Into Winner." 2 years ago tonight, Ryan Johansen fired an overtime winner past the Coyotes netminder, all but clinching the team’s second ever berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Pandemonium was everywhere- in the stands, on the ice, everywhere. It was a magical night for all involved. I will never, ever, be able to shake the feeling that I was watching the franchise turn the corner before my very eyes.
How far the franchise has fallen.
Tonight, the Columbus Blue Jackets closed out the road portion of their schedule by visiting the Buffalo Sabres. There will be no clinching celebrations tonight. There will be no fanfare, win or lose. Just a sigh, a packed bag, and a flight back to Columbus ahead of the end of the regular season tomorrow night. Columbus, a playoff hopeful at the start of the season, was looking not to get swept by the upstart Sabres. A sad commentary on where this team is, really- the Buffalo Sabres, thought to be so far below Columbus in their build, were on the verge of sweeping the Jackets.
Game 3's loss to Buffalo was the moment where many began to actually wonder about the direction the season was heading. Game 3, after two losses to the Rangers to open the year- it was as close to a must win to get the season on track. Columbus instead lost 4-2 and the seeds of doubt were planted. 0-3 became 0-8 and here we are. 72 points, assured of a bottom 5 finish, and needing a lot of draft lottery luck to improve the fortunes of the franchise- ladies and gentlemen, your 2015-16 Columbus Blue Jackets.
In team news, Coach Tortorella announced that the lineup would remain the same from Wednesday night’s win over Toronto, with one exception- Joonas Korpisalo would start in the net over Sergei Bobrovsky.
Let’s get to the highlights.
FIRST PERIOD HIGHLIGHTS
Your CBJ starters: Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, Ryan Murray, Seth Jones, Joonas Korpisalo
Jason Kasdorf, Buffalo netminder, was one of 3 Sabres to play their first game tonight.
Alexander Wennberg saw a shot deflected high after Oliver Bjorkstrand chased the puck down in the offensive zone.
End to end action to open the game. Korpisalo was the busier of the two netminders through 5 minutes.
4 shots for Buffalo, 3 for Columbus at 7:30.
Brandon Saad demolished Zach Bogosian in the open ice at 7:40.
Power play for Columbus. At 7:42, Jake McCabe went off for hooking Bjorkstrand.
The Sabres killed the penalty, allowing no real chances.
Oliver Bjorkstrand has been the catalyst for what little offense Columbus has shown tonight. On cue, he fires a shot just high over the top shelf at 12:30.
Columbus dominated much of the later stages of the period, but could not find a real scoring chance.
At 18:25, Nicolas Delauriers went off for boarding Alexander Wennberg.
BLUE JACKETS GOAL. Matt Calvert lasered a shot glove side at 18:45 off of a rush entering the zone. Who knew that was possible. Assist to Brandon Dubinsky.
After one period, the Jackets led the Sabres 1-0.. Columbus outshot Buffalo 13-8.
SECOND PERIOD HIGHLIGHTS
Buffalo started with a push, forcing a save from Korpisalo on Cole Schneider.
Sabres power play. Matt Calvert went off for hooking Johan Larsson at 1:03.
Sam Reinhart just missed a feed from Ryan O’Reilly- he had an empty net if he connected.
The Jackets killed the penalty.
Buffalo clearly owned play in the opening minutes of the period.
Power play for Buffalo. Dalton Prout went off for hooking Delauriers at 4:23. It was a terrible penalty to take. Prout got burned and had to take a bad penalty right in front of his own crease. For a guy who was signed to keep the crease clean, he does a monumentally poor job of keeping it clean.
Jack Eichel saw a shot blocked by Seth Jones at 5:00.
Buffalo absolutely owned the first 7 minutes. The Jackets did absolutely nothing of note offensively.
David Savard blocked a shot from Marcus Foligno to deny a wide open net at 9:00.
Sabres power play. Brandon Saad went off for tripping Jack Eichel as Eichel rushed in the zone at 11:36.
Cam Atkinson was denied at 12:45 on a shorthanded breakaway.
Gregory Campbell went off at 12:45 to for tripping Zemgus Girgensons, giving Buffalo 0:51 of 5 on 3.
Sabres goal. Sam Reinhart, who has been on the doorstep all night, deflected a shot over Korpisalo at 13:37. Assists to Jack Eichel and Matt Moulson.
Columbus has been outshot 14-2 this period.
BLUE JACKETS GOAL. Josh Anderson laid a hit to jar a puck loose, Boone Jenner sprawled and made a centering pass, and Nick Foligno buried it at 15:16. Assists to Jenner and Anderson. Credit to Anderson, who generated that chance out of absolutely nothing.
BLUE JACKETS GOAL. Dalton Prout makes it 3-1 at 17:25 on a one timeshot from the top of the circle. Assist to William Karlsson.
After 40 minutes, the Blue Jackets led 3-1. Buffalo outshot Columbus 26-20 through 40 minutes.
THIRD PERIOD HIGHLIGHTS
Cam Atkinson sent a shot just wide early in the period.
BLUE JACKETS GOAL. Brandon Saad notched his 30th of the year, assisted by Wennberg and Bjorkstrand at 5:11. Bjorkstrand won the puck below the line, fed it to Wennberg, and Wennberg found Saad waiting on the doorstep, who one timed it in.
The same story continued here- Buffalo dominated, but the Blue Jackets were the only ones who could find the back of the net.
Campbell was laid out by Brian Gionta at 10:30, but was able to continue.
Scott Hartnell was denied at 13:00 on a sharp angle shot.
Little action really to end the game.
Columbus Blue Jackets 4 Buffalo Sabres 1
*** Brandon Saad
** Dalton Prout
* Boone Jenner
For the first time ever, the Blue Jackets have 2 30 goal scorers in one season. Congrats to Boone Jenner and Brandon Saad.
This was such a dull game.
Columbus closes out the regular season with a visit from the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow night. Faceoff is at 7:00 EST.