BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Kyle Okposo had a goal and assist, and the Buffalo Sabres snapped a five-game skid with a 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.
Benoit Pouliot and Jack Eichel, with an empty-netter with 6 seconds left, also scored. Linus Ullmark stopped 44 shots in his first NHL game of the season.
Ullmark stopped the first 39 shots he faced before having his shutout bid foiled on Artemi Panarin’s power-play goal with 6:15 remaining.
The Sabres ended an 0-4-1 skid and won in regulation for the first time in nine games. Buffalo’s last victory was a 4-2 win over Philadelphia on Dec. 22.
The Blue Jackets had a two-game win streak snapped and failed to complete their sweep of a three-game season series against Buffalo. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 26 shots, but had little chance in stopping either of the two goals he allowed.
A fortunate bounce led to Okposo putting the Sabres up 2-0 with 12:42 left in the third period on an innocent-looking play that began with Buffalo forward Evander Kane dumping the puck up the right boards from the neutral zone.
Bobrovsky circled the net to await the puck, with Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones skating toward the goalie. The puck, however, hit a crease in the boards at the Zamboni entrance and caromed back toward the net, where Okposo swept it in from a bad angle, and just before Bobrovsky could scramble back into position.
The Blue Jackets cut the lead on Panarin’s goal with 6:15 left, and with Buffalo’s Evan Rodrigues serving a tripping penalty. Panarin was allowed to skate toward the net from the right boards and backhanded a shot over Ullmark’s left shoulder.
Columbus entered with the NHL’s worst power-play percentage and converted its only power-play opportunity. The Blue Jackets converted just three of their previous 23 chances over their past seven games.
Ullmark got the start with Robin Lehner still sore after being struck in the neck by a shot in a 4-1 loss at Philadelphia on Sunday. It was Ullmark’s 22nd career game in the NHL after being called up from AHL Rochester, where he has a 17-5-1 record.
He stopped 15 shots in the second period alone, with his best save coming midway through the frame. Columbus cycled the puck through the zone, eventually getting it to Jones alone in the high slot. Jones snapped a shot through a crowd only to have Ullmark get his glove down to snag it.
Pouliot’s goal came after Okposo blocked Columbus defenseman Scott Harrington’s hard clearing attempt at the right point. Playing give-and-go with Eichel, Okposo’s shot from the slot was stopped by Bobrovsky. Pouliot drove the left post and converted the rebound into the open side.
The goal was the NHL-low 18th scored by Buffalo in the opening period and marked just the 19th time in 45 games the Sabres have opened the scoring.
Buffalo entered with the NHL’s worst offense in having scored just 96 times.
NOTES: Blue Jackets C Alexander Wennberg returned after missing eight games with a back injury. … Sabres D Zach Bogosian will miss between four and six weeks after hurting his lower left leg in practice Wednesday. … The Blue Jackets recalled backup G Joonas Korpisalo from AHL Cleveland, two days after he was demoted and stopped 29 shots in the Monsters’ 1-0 loss at Milwaukee.
Blue Jackets: Host Vancouver Canucks on Friday.
Sabres: Enter NHL-mandated five-day break, and are off until playing at New York Rangers on Jan. 18