COLUMBUS, Ohio – Good work at the net and in the net.
That was the tale of the Buffalo Sabres' preseason opener Monday night, as the Blue and Gold rolled past the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-1, before about 5,000 fans in Nationwide Arena.
The Sabres took charge by scoring on their first three shots of the second period via goals by Patrik Berglund, Nathan Beaulieu and Kyle Criscuolo. Meanwhile, goaltender Linus Ullmark stopped 20 of 21 shots he faced while playing the first 40 minutes to keep the Jackets at bay.
Alexander Nylander and Tage Thompson collected two assists apiece for Buffalo while playing on Berglund's wings.
Shooting straight: In addition to going 3 for 3 to start the second period, the Sabres had three goals on their 10 shots in the game over the first 34 minutes.
Opening salvo: After a scoreless first period, it took the Sabres 22 seconds to tally in the second as Berglund rifled home a one-timer from the slot after Thompson did the forechecking work. Nylander fished the puck away from the Columbus defense in the left corner and Berglund one-timed home Nylander's cross-ice pass from the left corner.
Second the motion: Beaulieu made it 2-0 at 6:31 by rifling home a one-timer from between the circles as Nylander found him on a 4-on-3 situation.
Quick response: The Blue Jackets scored just eight seconds later as David Savard's snapshot beat Ullmark.
Breathing room: Criscuolo, who spent most of last year in Rochester, took a Sean Malone pass from in tight and scored at 13:15 of the second period to make it 3-1.
Pulling away: Andrew Oglevie, signed as a college free agent out of Notre Dame, banged home a Scott Wilson rebound at 2:14 of the third period to put Buffalo up by three.
Injury report: Malone hobbled off the ice in the second period with what appeared to be a left knee injury. He did not return for the third. Coach Phil Housley said he would be re-evaluated on Tuesday.
The Buffalo lineup: Especially early in preseason before many cuts are made, who plays and with whom is as big a story as the numbers on the scoreboard. To that end, the Sabres forward lines for this one were:
- Wilson-Evan odrigues-Danny O'Regan
- Victor Olofsson-Johan Larsson-Oglevie
- Malone-Criscuolo-Tyler Randell
The defense pairs were Beaulieu-Matt Tennyson, Brendan Guhle-Casey Nelson, Brandon Hickey-Taylor Fedun.
Ullmark started and Jonas Johansson served as the backup goaltender, stopping all 16 shots he faced in the third. Columbus finished the game with a 37-18 advantage in shots on goal.
In the circle: Berglund went 5-0 on faceoffs in the first period as the Sabres were 9-3. The impact of Berglund and fellow newcomer Vladimir Sobotka is expected to help relieve the loss of Ryan O'Reilly, who set an NHL record last year for faceoffs won in a season. Berglund finished the game 10-5 while the Sabres were 24-26.
No Full Metal Jackets: Nick Foligno, Artemi Panarin, Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones and Zach Werenski all sat this one out for Columbus. So did goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. The Jackets are expected to play most of their big games Tuesday night for a visit by Chicago.
Prominent names in the lineup for Columbus were Brandon Dubinsky, Pierre-Lue Dubois, Sonny Milano and Anthony Duclair. Coach John Tortorella watched this one from the press box and let assistant Brad Larsen run the bench.
Tuesday's schedule: The Sabres headed home after the game and will stage their preseason home opener Tuesday night in KeyBank Center against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It's expected to be the debut of Rasmus Dahlin, and other big names like Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner, Kyle Okposo and Rasmus Ristolainen are among those likely to play.
The group playing in the game will be holding a morning skate in the arena at 10:30 a.m. The players not in the game will practice at HarborCenter from 11:15-11:45 a.m. and then scrimmage there from 11:50 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
All of those pregame sessions are free and open to the public.
Thin Penguins lineup on tap: As for Pittsburgh, don't head downtown Tuesday night expecting to see many big names.
As teams usually do for their first road preseason game, most of the marquee men are staying home. No Sidney Crosby. No Evgeni Malkin. No Phil Kessel or Patric Hornqvist. No Kris Letang on defense or Matt Murray in goal.
The biggest name the Pens are bringing to town is sharp-shooting winger Jake Guentzel. Former Sabre center Derek Grant, signed as a free agent after a 12-goal season in Anaheim, is also coming. On defense will be Olli Maatta and former Sabre Chad Ruhwedel.
The rest is a mix of fringe NHL/AHL players and prospects, with forward Daniel Sprong perhaps the top name. A second-round pick in 2015, the 21-year-old was a 32-goal man last year at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.