THE AFTERMATH: SABRES 5, BLUE JACKETS 4
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - With their astonishing second-half turnaround propelling them into the postseason complete, the focus for the Buffalo Sabres is making sure franchise goalie Ryan Miller is rested enough to backstop a long playoff run.
Miller played the first half of the game, Paul Gaustad scored the winner late on a power play, and four other Buffalo players scored as the Sabres held on to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 on Saturday night in the season finale for both teams.
Buffalo enters the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres could have moved up to sixth, but Montreal beat Toronto 4-1.
It was the second straight game Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff has limited Miller to 30 minutes of action, easing him back into the lineup after he missed four games with an upper-body injury... More
Normally a penalty wouldn’t be considered the play of the game, but the ramifications from this penalty certainly did change the momentum of Saturday night’s game. Around the 11-minute mark of the third period, forward Tyler Ennis charged toward Steve Mason and the Columbus net. In the process, an altercation with defenseman Craig Rivet erupted after Ennis slashed Rivet, who returned the favor. The situation escalated as the two traded shots before Rivet ended the dispute with a cross-check to the head of Ennis. When all was said and done, Ennis received a two minute slashing penalty and Rivet received two for roughing, five for cross-checking and a game misconduct. It was the five minute cross-checking penalty that proved to be the difference maker as Buffalo was able to convert twice on the ensuing power play. Drew Stafford’s spinning shot from in tight gave the Sabres the lead and Paul Gaustad’s tip-in served as the eventual game-winner.
- About one-third of the crowd at the Nationwide Arena appeared to be sporting Sabres apparel and rooting for Buffalo.
- Thomas Vanek was a healthy scratch for the game. Vanek did skate during the optional morning skate but sat along with Patrick Lalime.
- Forward Mike Grier (knee) was on the ice during the optional morning skate, but did not dress for the game. Head coach Lindy Ruff stated that Grier is still having some difficulty skating.
- Jochen Hecht (upper body), Andrej Sekera (upper body) and Jordan Leopold (hand) were once again scratched for Buffalo.
- With Vanek out of the lineup, forward Rob Niedermayer was promoted to play left wing on the line with Tim Connolly and Jason Pominville.
- Kaleta replaced Niedermayer on the line with Matt Ellis and Cody McCormick.
- Goaltender Ryan Miller played 30:32 before Jhonas Enroth came in for some pre-playoff work. Miller turned away 21-of-22 shots.
- Tyler Ennis recorded his 20th goal of the year, becoming the first Sabres rookie to score 20 goals since Thomas Vanek scored 25 goals during the 2005-06 season.
- Chris Butler tied his career-high total in goals when he notched his second goal of the year during the second period.
- Center Paul Gaustad picked up his 100th career assist when he set up Chris Butler in the second.
- Brad Boyes received the second star of the night for his three-assist performance on Saturday night giving Boyes 199 career assists.
- This past Thursday, Portland Pirate Luke Adam was named the AHL’ Outstanding Rookie of the Year. He is the third straight Buffalo prospect to receive this award following Nathan Gerbe (2008-09) and Tyler Ennis (2009-10).
- Defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani was also honored this past week as he received the AHL’s Outstanding Defenseman award. Grangani played in 63 games for Portland this year tallying 60 points (12+48) and a plus/minus of +22.
With the Stanley Cup Playoffs on tap, Buffalo will get a bit of time off. The NHL will officially announce the schedule for the first round of the postseason on Sunday, but qualifying teams can play as early as Wednesday, April 13. Buffalo is locked into seventh place in the Eastern Conference and will start on the road in Philadelphia. Sabres.com will have the official playoff schedule as soon as it is available.