Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella shuffled his lines ahead of his team's game with the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night and it paid off as Columbus scored two first period goals to coast to a 3-1 win.
Trade deadline acquisition Kyle Quincey got the party started, blasting a turnover that floated to the point past Sabres goalie Anders Nilsson to put the Jackets up, 1-0, five minutes into the game. The goal was Quincey's first as a Blue Jacket.
Three minutes later, Cam Atkinson buried a shot over Nilsson's glove hand to put the Blue Jackets up by two.
The goal was set up by a ridiculous pass from Seth Jones, who somehow slid through four Sabres to spring Atkinson. The goal was the 34th of the season for the winger, with Alexander Wennberg picking up the secondary assist.
Here's the play. You'll want to admire it for a minute:
The Sabres dominated play in the second period. The shots for the period show 13–8, Buffalo, but it certainly felt much worse than that.
Midway through the second period, left winger Evan Rodrigues punched in a power play shot from the slot to cut Columbus' lead to one. It was just Rodrigues' fourth goal of the season – with two of those somehow coming at Nationwide Arena.
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The goal ended Blue Jacket goalie Sergei Bobrovsky's shutout streak at 109 minutes and 14 seconds.
Buffalo continued to pour on the pressure in the second half of the middle period, but Bobrovsky stood tall, stopping several good chances from the Sabres.
The Blue Jackets came out and dominated the early part of the third period, registering a handful of excellent chances, including a shot from Brandon Saad at point blank range that just missed.
The two teams would go on to play a scoreless third, however, until the Sabres pulled Nilsson with 90 seconds remaining. After a scramble in the defensive end, Josh Anderson chipped a loose puck to Saad, who turned on the jets and buried an empty-netter for the final margin. The goal gave Saad 50 points on the season.
Bobrovsky registered his league-leading 41st win of the season. More importantly, the Blue Jackets earned the crucial two points as they continue to fight for playoff position and the President's Trophy.
With the win, the Blue Jackets improved to 14–4–2 in their last 20 games and 7–1–0 in their last eight at Nationwide Arena.
Bobrovski has been even better, if you can believe it, now 10–0–2 with five shutouts in his last 12 starts. In the month of March, Bobrovsky is 9–0–1 with a 1.00 goals-against average, a .972 save percentage and four shutouts. Hello, Vezina.
With 105 points, the Blue Jackets are one point off of the Washington Capitals, who faced Minnesota later Tuesday night, for tops in the NHL. Columbus has a two-point lead on Pittsburgh for the No. 2 spot in the Metropolitan Division.
Power Play Still Struggling
Despite Tortorella's best efforts to shake things up, the Blue Jackets power play struggled again Tuesday night, going 0 of 3 against the Sabres. Columbus is 4 of 31 on the power play in the month of March and has just one power play goal in their last nine games.
Despite this, the Blue Jackets are 10–3–1 in March, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
The Blue Jackets travel to Raleigh for a Thursday night tilt with the Carolina Hurricanes (33–27–14). The Canes are four points off Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, so they'll be ready to skate.
The Jackets are 2–1 against Carolina this season, playing all three games within an 11-day span in mid-January. Carolina took the first game, 5-3, at home before the Blue Jackets bounced back to take two, 4-1 and 3-2, at Nationwide Arena.