The Sabres' quest for a .500 points percentage will fall short.
A strong second half had Buffalo hoping to even the wins and regulation losses in its record. A 4-1 setback against Columbus in the penultimate game Friday made that an impossibility. The Sabres fell to 34-36-11 with just one game to go on the schedule.
The Sabres have had a sub-.500 points percentage for three straight seasons. They were 21-21-6 during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. The last time Buffalo had more wins than all types of losses was 2010-11 when it went 43-29-10.
Bogosian hurt: Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian suffered a lower-body injury during the first period and played just 3:31. Bogosian walked into a crushing hit from Brandon Saad with 8:42 off the clock. He played one shift following the collision but went to the trainers' room after that and didn't return. He will not play in the finale.
Rookie explosion: For the first time since Oct. 8, 1992, the Sabres had three players make their NHL debut in the same game. Forwards Evan Rodrigues and Williamsville’s Cole Schneider joined goaltender Jason Kasdorf. Richard Smehlik, Yuri Khmylev, Philippe Boucher and Viktor Gordiouk all took the ice for the first time in the 1992-93 season opener.
Quick strike: The Blue Jackets scored twice in the final five minutes of the second to open a 3-1 lead and take command.
Josh Anderson forced a Josh Gorges turnover deep in the Buffalo zone, with Boone Jenner diving to get the puck to Nick Foligno. The Columbus captain had no trouble beating Kasdorf from close range with 4:44 left.
The Blue Jackets used an odd-man rush to score with 2:35 to go. Dalton Prout teed up a drop pass from William Karlsson and ripped it home from the top of the circles to put Buffalo in a two-goal hole.
Almost a first: The Sabres have yet to score on a five-on-three this season, but they were one second away Friday. Just after Saad stepped out of the box, Sam Reinhart tipped Jack Eichel’s pass by goaltender Joonas Korpisalo to make it 1-1. The scoring play featured good movement as Ryan O’Reilly, Matt Moulson and Eichel all touched the puck before Reinhart finished with 6:23 left in the second for his 23rd goal.
Shot disparity: The Sabres outshot the Blue Jackets, 18-6, during the second but were outscored, 2-1. Buffalo had four power plays in the period and took five shots with the man-advantage.
Eleven isn’t heaven: Kasdorf stopped the first 10 NHL shots he faced, but No. 11 soared past as Columbus took a 1-0 lead. With Nicolas Deslauriers in penalty box for boarding, Matt Calvert skated to the left faceoff dot and rung one home off the far post. The Blue Jackets, who scored with 1:15 left, finished the opening period with a 14-8 shot advantage.
Closing it out: The Sabres left Saad alone in front early in the third period, and it was a bad idea. The forward buried his 30th goal of the season to bury the Sabres in a 4-1 hole with 14:49 remaining.
Awards: The Sabres conducted their annual awards ceremony prior to the game, with the players voting for four honors: Most Valuable Player, Unsung Hero, Rookie of the Year and Sabres Foundation Man of the Year.
The players named Ryan O’Reilly as their MVP. The center entered the game leading the team with 38 assists and 59 points. O’Reilly paces all NHL forwards at 21:47 of ice time per game.
Goaltender Chad Johnson, who stepped in for injured Robin Lehner and has played a career-high 45 games, earned Unsung Hero honors. Johnson is 22-16-4 with a .920 save percentage and 2.36 goals-against average.
Eichel took home the Rookie of the Year. The 2015 second overall draft pick leads the Sabres with 24 goals and is second with 54 points in 80 games.
Marcus Foligno earned the Sabres Foundation Man of the Year Award.
Mark Kurtz earned the “7th Man” fan award handed out by the organization and posed for photos with the other winners alongside Sabres President Russ Brandon.
Reunion: The Foligno family was well-represented at the foot of Jim Kelley Way. The Sabres’ Foligno and his Blue Jackets brother Nick were on the ice. Their dad, Mike, was upstairs watching from the press box.
Next: The season comes to a close Saturday in Brooklyn when the Sabres visit the New York Islanders. It will be the third time in four seasons that Buffalo finishes its schedule against the Islanders. The Sabres won’t waste any time wrapping up the season. The players will clean out their lockers Sunday, and Murray and Bylsma will deliver their end-of-season address Monday.