COLUMBUS, Ohio –The Sabres outshot Columbus, 41-29. They spent extended stretches in the Blue Jackets' zone.
They learned why Sergei Bobrovsky should win the Vezina Trophy and might be the NHL MVP.
The Columbus goaltender made 40 saves Tuesday night to deal the Sabres a 3-1 loss in Nationwide Arena. Bobrovsky improved to 41-13-5, including 10-0-2 in his last 12 decisions.
Columbus moved to 14-4-2 in its last 20 overall and 9-2 in its last 11 home games. The Sabres had won two straight and four of five.
All dressed up, nowhere to go: Sabres right wing Sam Reinhart watched the entire game from the bench and didn't skate a shift for disciplinary reasons. During the first and third periods, he sat next to the defensemen at the end of the line of forwards. During the second period, he sat at the end of the bench.
"Earlier in the day, Sam Reinhart violated a team policy, and the discipline was not playing in tonight’s game," coach Dan Bylsma said.
Okposo sick: Sabres right wing Kyle Okposo missed the game due to illness. Forward Nicolas Deslauriers dressed in his place after being a healthy scratch for five straight.
Duck: Jake McCabe was kneeling in the net when the Blue Jackets opened the scoring. Wisely, the Sabres defenseman ducked and covered when Kyle Quincey wound up. The defenseman’s shot missed goaltender Anders Nilsson and McCabe while finding the twine with 14:47 gone.
Nilsson stopped a shot during a scramble in front, and the clearing attempt by Evan Rodrigues went directly to Quincey for the blast. Columbus entered the game 34-9-4 when scoring first.
Goal Cam: Blue Jackets leading scorer Cam Atkinson added another to his total, making it 2-0 with 2:12 left in the first. Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges just missed a big hit on puck-carrier Seth Jones near the blue line, and Jones found Atkinson on the vacated right side. The winger beat Nilsson for his 34th of the season.
More power: The game featured the hottest power play and a deadly penalty kill. The Sabres won the matchup midway through the second to make it 2-1.
Rodrigues buried a one-timer with 9:07 left, allowing the Sabres’ power play to improve to 7 for 10 in the last five games. Columbus’ penalty killers, who stopped a first-period power play, slipped to 22 for 24 at home in the past 12 games.
It was Rodrigues' fourth goal of the year. Ryan O'Reilly earned the primary assist, giving him three goals and three assists in six games. McCabe earned the second assist. The defenseman has nine of his 20 points in the last 16 games.
Seal it: Brandon Saad scored into an empty net with 1:05 to play.
Busy: Bobrovsky stopped all 15 shots he faced during the first period as the Sabres outshot the Blue Jackets, 15-11. His best stop came when William Carrier sped around the defense to get an open chance at the top of the crease with five minutes gone.
The Sabres outshot the Blue Jackets, 12-8, during the second period.
Big start to third: Nilsson made three impressive saves in the opening five minutes of the third period to keep the Sabres within a goal. The goaltender turned aside chances by Quincey, Josh Anderson and Saad.
Nilsson has appeared in just five of the Sabres' last 24 games.
New lines: The absence of Okposo and sitting by Reinhart forced Bylsma to change the forward lines.
The pregame skate featured Ryan O’Reilly centering left wing Evander Kane and right wing Tyler Ennis. Jack Eichel skated between Marcus Foligno and Matt Moulson. Rodrigues was in the middle of William Carrier and Brian Gionta. Zemgus Girgensons centered Deslauriers and Reinhart.
With Reinhart merely a spectator once the puck dropped, the lines constantly shuffled.
Counting the house: The Blue Jackets announced a crowd of 14,533.
Next: The Sabres have a rare four-day break between games. They don’t play again until hosting the New York Islanders on Sunday afternoon in KeyBank Center. It's the beginning of three games in four days downtown to close out the home schedule. The Sabres host Toronto on Monday and Montreal on Wednesday.