CLINTON -- Star forward Artemi Panarin burned Buffalo on a pair of third-period power plays Tuesday night as the Columbus Blue Jackets snapped a tie and went on to a 4-2 exhibition win over the Sabres at Clinton Arena.
Panarin's power-play goal on a wicked slapshot with 13:29 left beat Buffalo goalie Scott Wedgewood to put Columbus ahead for keeps. His neat drop pass to Kevin Stenlund set up another man-advantage tally with 11:05 left as Stenlund lasered a wrist shot over Wedgewood's shoulder. That goal came after an Alexander Nylander turnover.
"He's trying to make something happen," coach Phil Housley said of Nylander. "We gave up two goals on the PK where we had total control and possesison of the puck where we'd still be playing right now. It's unfortunate. Those are things you've got to learn."
The Sabres outshot the Blue Jackets, 33-26, but fell to 2-3 in the preseason with their third straight loss. Columbus (2-4) snapped a three-game skid of its own by scoring three power-play goals in the game.
Here's more of the seen, scene and heard of the Sabres' visit to the Hockeyville USA game:
The setting: Clinton Arena, which dates to 1953, was packed with about 2,000 fans. There are only six rows of seats encircling the rink and row one on the end, in fact, was just a collection of folding chairs. About 90 seats were not used behind the penalty box so protective netting could be removed for the NBC Sports Network cameras.
"It's people like this that drive the game of hockey and make it so popular," said Sabres forward Sam Reinhart. "I don't take opportunities like this for granted to come to a town like this, be able to play in front of them and show them what the league is about first-hand."
The prizes: Clinton (population 2,000) was selected as Hockeyville in April, winning $150,000 in arena upgrades and the right to host the game. The arena used the money for higher glass, new netting, a new refrigeration system and other lighting and technical upgrades.
Back for more: The Sabres have been in a Hockeyville game four games in the last 10 years. Their previous locales were Roberval, Quebec; Dundas, Ont., and their 2016 trip to Marquette, Mich.
The lineup: The Sabres had a strong top line of Jack Eichel between Reinhart and Jeff Skinner and used Patrik Berglund between Alexander Nylander and Andrew Oglevie. Kyle Okposo moved down to give a veteran presence to center Casey Mittelstadt and winger C.J. Smith while the fourth line had Evan Rodrigues between Justin Bailey and Danny O'Regan.
The big change was on defense, where Rasmus Dahlin was paired with Casey Nelson after spending his first two preseason appearances with Jake McCabe. Zach Bogosian was reunited with McCabe, his partner the last couple of years. The third pair was Brendan Guhle and Will Borgen. Scott Wedgewood went the route in goal.
Celebrity greeting: The teams arrived at the arena by bus and went through with their scheduled red carpet entrance despite a heavy rain. Volunteers made sure the players had enough umbrellas to stay dry while they signed autographs.
The Commish on Clinton: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he loves these annual affairs. "The intimacy this environment creates and the uniqueness of the opportunity for the fans in Clinton and similar towns to experience a professional game in their home rink almost defies description," Bettman said in a first intermission chat with The Buffalo News and the Athletic. "If you're a kid who stood out in the rain today at the red carpet, you're never going to forget it. Your emotional connection to the game and to this town has now been cemented for life."
Not your average morning: The teams pregame skates were attended by more than 1,000 fans, with a large number of them children from local schools. Many were partisan for the Sabres, chanting "Let's go, Buf-fa-lo" as the team took the ice.
"It was great," said Housley. "Tunes were blaring. Guys were moving the puck really well. Feeling it. This crowd was awesome. ... It just brings you back to your childhood memories."
Fast and furious: After a scoreless first period, the teams combined for four goals in the second. Nelson opened the scoring at 1:13 after a Nylander pass but Columbus tied it on an Anthony Duclair breakaway at 12:36. The Sabres went ahead, 2-1, as Reinhart tipped in an Eichel feed on a power play at 14:28 but the Jackets tied it again as Wheatfield native Adam Clendening crept down low to take a feed and score at 15:35.
First point for the first pick: Dahlin got his first point of the preseason, assisting on the Reinhart goal with a long pass up ice to Eichel.
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) September 26, 2018
New York State of mind: Bogosian grew up in Massena, three hours north of here and said his memories of the state's Central region were rekindled during the team's bus ride to the rink from Rome after its morning flight.
"I'm used to seeing the back roads of New York State," Bogosian said. "So it kind of brought back some memories of the long hockey trips on the weekend with my parents and brothers. It was cool reminiscing about my childhood. If this [game] was around when I was a kid, this is obviously something I would want to be at."
What's next: The Sabres flew home immediately after the game and the group that remained behind in Buffalo will comprise most of the roster for Wednesday night's game in Pittsburgh against the Penguins (7 p.m, Radio 550, no TV). The preseason concludes Friday night in Oshawa, Ont., against the New York Islanders.