Blue Jackets Take Down Sabres; Kukan Has First Career Two-Goal Game

By Jacob Nitzberg on February 20, 2022 at 8:50 pm
Feb 20, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Brendan Gaunce (23) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Buffalo Sabres in the second period at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Folks, the Blue Jackets are officially on a tear.

The Buffalo Sabres didn't stand a chance on Sunday night at Nationwide Arena, as goals from Dean Kukan (two), Boone Jenner, Zach Werenski, Brendan Gaunce, Gustav Nyquist, and Justin Danforth gave the Blue Jackets a 7-2 win.

The Blue Jackets have won five out of their last six games and are 7-2-0 in their last nine.

With Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo unable to go, Jean-Francois Berube got his first NHL start since April 6th, 2018, when he stopped 31 of 34 shots against the St. Louis Blues. Berube was a Blackhawk at the time but has only seen AHL action since then. He was called on tonight and performed well, stopping 33 of 36 shots in his first NHL win since April 4th, 2018.

Unlikely scorer Dean Kukan started the party for the Blue Jackets. After a scuffle near the Sabres' net, the puck fell to Kukan, who blasted one past Craig Anderson to give the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead. It was Kukan's second goal of the season, and he'd add another in the second period. Yegor Chinakhov and Max Domi's efforts paved the way for Kukan's blast.

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SABRES 2 1 0 3

Late in the first period, Mark Pysyk and Tage Thompson struck two minutes and nine seconds apart to give the Sabres a 2-1 advantage. The Blue Jackets had dominated the game until that point, and it was a bit of a gut punch.

Clearly, the punch didn't affect Boone Jenner too strongly. He scored ten seconds after Thompson's goal to even things up at 2-2 with his 21st goal of the season. Jakub Voracek and Patrik Laine provided the helpers. Laine's point streak now sits at nine games.

In the second period, the Blue Jackets used two goals from defensemen to take command. First, Kukan scored his second of the game on a shot from the point through traffic. It was Kukan's first two-goal game of his career. In 128 NHL games prior to Sunday night, the Swiss defenseman had scored three goals.

Then, Zach Werenski fired a wrist shot from the left circle past Anderson to double the Blue Jackets' lead. After a slow start to the season, Werenski now has a five-game point streak (2-4-6). Oliver Bjorkstrand and Jenner added assists on the play. They kept pushing and added a fifth goal. Laine found a streaking Brendan Gaunce with a beautiful stretch pass, and Gaunce skated in on Anderson. The former Canuck sent a wrist shot over Anderson's blocker to extend the lead to 5-2 and give the Blue Jackets some breathing room.

With 32 seconds remaining in the middle frame, Kyle Okposo buried the puck from close range to get the Sabres back within striking distance.

The third period was vastly different from the first two. Both teams were held scoreless until Gustav Nyquist's empty-netter with 36 seconds remaining, despite 18 shots on goal for the Sabres and seven for the Blue Jackets. Berube had an excellent period (and game) to seal the deal for the Blue Jackets, who weathered the storm from the Sabres in the final 20 minutes.

Justin Danforth, who had been out since December 30th with a knee injury, added a goal with four seconds left to give the Blue Jackets their second-straight seven-goal game.

Next Up

The Blue Jackets (25-23-1, 51 points) will host the Toronto Maple Leafs (32-13-3, 67 points) on Tuesday night. Puck drop at Nationwide Arena is slated for 7:00 p.m. EST.