COLUMBUS, Ohio – This was not a game coaches are going to like. Too bad. Anybody watching had to love it.
Nine goals, 75 shots on goal and 126 attempts at the net gave the folks in Nationwide Arena plenty to enjoy Saturday night.
Unfortunately, it was a mixed bag for the Buffalo Sabres.
They first reveled in wiping out a two-goal deficit and getting the game to overtime. But the glee was short-lived, as Artemi Panarin's blast to the top corner just 31 seconds into OT gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 5-4 victory over Buffalo.
The unsatisfying finish ended the Sabres' three-game winning streak and prevented their first four-gamer since 2014. But being bad and boring – like they've been much of the last five years – was not any sort of apt description of this game.
The Sabres got destroyed by the Blue Jackets' top line. Panarin had two goals and an assist. So did fellow winger Cam Atkinson, who scored both of his goals in a 31-second span late in the second period to put the Sabres in a 4-2 hole. Center Pierre-Lue Dubois had a goal and two assists, including the helper on the game winner.
Dubois got the puck away from Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen on the left boards and quickly fed Panarin, who burned Linus Ullmark just under the crossbar.
"He's an overall good player, one of the best players in the league and he kind of showed it there," Ullmark said of Panarin. "He just has a good shot."
That's for sure. The winner was an absolute rocket that left Ullmark little chance to stop it.
Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner had peeled away on the play and didn't give Ristolainen any outlet as he battled with Columbus defenseman Seth Jones and Dubois. Ristolainen was on the ice for four of Columbus' five goals in the game.
"We did all the right things there, had him in sort of what we call a dead area," coach Phil Housley said of Dubois. "We were aggressive to get that puck and it was just unfortunate we didn't make that next play. It was a bang-bang play."
For the third straight game, the Sabres battled from behind. And this time, their situation was even more dire than it was Sunday in Anaheim or Thursday in KeyBank Center against Montreal.
Goals by Jason Pominville and Casey Mittelstadt in the first 4½ minutes of the third got them even and they had a 13-8 advantage in shots in the priod. Pominville's goal came off a no-look pass to the slot from Eichel.
"We were better all over the ice and made a couple nice plays," Pominville said. "Eichs made a nice play on mine and we got a power play and we were able to score on that. Big effort by everyone."
Eichel with eyes in the back of his head again 😱 pic.twitter.com/XomtYLHJtA
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 28, 2018
Mittelstadt got his first of the year battling in front with Skinner for a loose puck.
"I think 'Skins' hit my stick into the puck and it went in," said a smiling Mittelstadt. "If that's what it takes to get your first of the year, that's definitely good. I haven't been unhappy with how I'm playing but they just haven't been going in.
"You think about it a little bit but it wasn't bothering me much. I've been a goal scorer my whole career so when they come, they come. It was nice to get one here and build off it."
Even giving up five goals, goaltending would be waaaay down the list of issues in this one. Ullmark again made numerous key saves out of his total of 32 and fell just shy of starting the season 3-0.
"It's a fun game," Ullmark said. "A lot of stuff to do, lot of saves to be made. Sadly, I couldn't put up enough for the team to win today."
Housley was happy with his club's bounceback in the third. The Blue Jackets only had three scoring chances by his count over the final 20 minutes and the Sabres could have pulled out a win had they been better on the power play, which was only 1 for 5 overall and 1 for 3 in the third period.
"We got back to what we did in the first," Housley said. "We got the puck in, started working and controlling the play down low. ... The second period was uncharacteristic the way we played the last three or four games. We just got away from it. It cost us but I give credit to our guys finding a way to battle back."