COLUMBUS, Ohio – It’s not every day a shot from 50 yards away finds the net, so it’s cause for celebration when it happens. The Sabres made sure David Legwand partied.
Legwand’s shot from the top of his own faceoff circle shockingly went in with 1:22 left in the first period Friday, pushing Buffalo toward a 4-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Robin Lehner made 38 saves to make the fluke goal stand up and give the Sabres a four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1).
Legwand merely wanted to end his penalty-killing shift by sending the puck down the ice. His long clear floated all the way to the slot in Columbus’ end, then bounced past goaltender Joonas Korpisalo to put the Sabres up, 2-0. Legwand was already at the bench in Nationwide Arena when the puck went in, so his teammates mobbed him there with pats on the head.
There were plenty more celebratory taps when the Sabres added two goals in the final 12:44 to coast home.
Power up: Buffalo’s beleaguered power play opened the scoring, and it needed just six seconds of man-advantage time to do it. The Blue Jackets blocked Rasmus Ristolainen’s shot, with the carom heading to Jack Eichel. Korpisalo stopped the rookie’s shot but couldn’t catch up to Jamie McGinn’s rebound with 5:05 left in the first. McGinn has 13 goals, six off his career best.
The Sabres faltered on their first power play of the night, falling to 2 for 23 before the goal.
Penalties equal goals: Legwand’s short-handed tally continued a trend of Buffalo scoring in Columbus with a man in the box. The Sabres have four short-handed goals in their last four games in Columbus. Zemgus Girgensons scored during the first of two visits last season, while Marcus Foligno and Christian Ehrhoff found the net in the same game in 2013-14.
Franson injured: Cody Franson went to the Sabres’ dressing room with 3:05 left in the second period and didn’t return after being boarded by Scott Hartnell. The Columbus forward was given a five-minute major. But …
Box, box, box: The Sabres, holding a 2-0 lead, had a chance to bury the Jackets with the five-minute power play. Instead, they got just 30 seconds of power-play time while Columbus unexpectedly had 1:31. Rasmus Ristolainen picked up an interference penalty 30 seconds after Hartnell departed. Foligno joined the defenseman 41 seconds later, giving Columbus a four-on-three. Then Evander Kane was whistled for tripping, giving the Blue Jackets eight more seconds of power-play time and wiping out the remainder of Hartnell’s call.
Bogosian injured: Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian went to the dressing room with a bloody face after crashing into the end boards with 8:30 left. He was hooked by Boone Jenner, who was given a five-minute major. Lehner exchanged jabs with Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson during the ensuing scuffle.
Lehner starts well: Despite exiting the first period with a 2-0 lead, the Sabres had plenty of problems with puck control and defensive coverage during the opening 20 minutes. Lehner made up for it, stopping all 14 of Columbus’ shots. He stared down Brandon Dubinsky on a short-handed breakaway, stone Cam Atkinson on the doorstep after a cross-crease pass and got his glove on Scott Hartnell’s great chance.
Lehner finishes well: After a controlled second period, the Sabres got sloppy again in the third. It didn’t matter as Lehner made point-blank stops on Dubinsky and Kerby Rychel in the opening minutes to keep the Blue Jackets frustrated.
Insurance: McGinn scored his second of the night and 14th of the season with 12:44 left after Jack Eichel carried the puck to the goal line. Sam Reinhart scored his 18th of the year with 10:07 to go after Evander Kane was stopped on a breakaway but pushed the carom to Reinhart at the side of the net.
Bylsma hopeful Ennis returns: The Sabres have returned to full health up front with the exception of long-term injuries to Cody McCormick (blood clots) and Tyler Ennis (concussion). Ennis is not close to returning, but coach Dan Bylsma hasn’t written him off with 23 games remaining.
“I don’t have any indication one way or another, but yes, hope to” have him back this season, Bylsma said.
Familiar scratches: The Sabres scratched defensemen Mike Weber for the fifth straight game and sat blue-liner Carlo Colaiacovo for the 29th time in 31 games. Buffalo sent rookie forward Dan Catenacci back to Rochester after he cleared concussion testing.
Next: The Sabres will play their only home game in a 15-day span Sunday when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit First Niagara Center for a 12:30 p.m. matinee. Buffalo heads to California next week for its annual three-game jaunt through Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles.