Voracek scores in OT, Blue Jackets rally to beat Sabres 4-3
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Jakub Voracek scored 16 seconds into overtime to give the Columbus Blue Jackets a comeback 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jack Roslovic and Brendan Gaunce also had goals as Columbus rallied from a two-goal deficit for a second consecutive road victory to open a five-game trip, following Tuesday’s 5-4 win at Washington.
“Obviously, it’s not optimal to go down two goals,” Voracek said. “It takes a lot more energy to come back in those games. But two games in a row, two wins after the break, I think we’ll take it.”
The Blue Jackets have scored 24 goals in winning four of the past five games. Elvis Merzlikins made 24 saves.
Voracek recorded his team-leading 29th assist on Bjorkstrand’s goal. He surprised teammates by shooting instead of passing on the rush in overtime.
Following a face-off win by Boone Jenner, who scored the winner in Washington, and a short pass in the defensive zone from Zach Werenski, who tallied his 20th assist, Voracek skated up the right wing and beat Dustin Tokarski with a wrist shot from the circle to the far post for his second goal of the season and first in 31 games.
“You know, we were as surprised as anybody,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “I’m happy for him. I’m thrilled. A pretty good shot. And a huge goal for us.”
Voracek said he didn’t feel pressure to break his scoring drought, but was happy to do it in a key moment.
“I never had a scoring drought this long in my life,” the 32-year-old said. “As long as I play my game, you know you’re going to pick up either an assist on a winning goal, or make a difference with something else. I’ve been in those struggles, goal-scoring droughts a lot of times. And I’m too old to get in my head.”
Rasmus Dahlin, Kyle Okposo and Alex Tuch scored for the Sabres in their first game back from the All-Star break. Tage Thompson had two assists and Tokarski stopped 30 shots for the Sabres, who have lost three in a row.
“We got that 3-1 lead, we had a couple good shifts afterward, and then we started changing the way we were playing,” Tuch said. “We were playing too much defense, sitting back. We just have them opportunities that I didn’t think we did in the second period.”
The Blue Jackets scored twice in the third period for their 14th comeback win of the season. It was their sixth when trailing after two periods, matching the Florida Panthers for most in the NHL.
The Sabres dropped to 10-3-6 when leading after two periods.
“It’s aggravating. It’s frustrating,” coach Don Granato said. “But we need to make sure our belief system is strong so our passion and energy show on every shift.”
Bjorkstrand got the tying goal on a power play with 5:35 left in the third period. After Andrew Peeke drew a holding penalty on Okposo, Patrik Laine fed Bjorkstrand at the left edge of the crease for his 13th goal of the season.
Gaunce cut the Sabres lead to 3-2 at 4:48 of the third, slipping a sharp-angled shot from the left circle between Tokarski’s pads for his first of the season.
Okposo gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead with 1:37 remaining in the second period. Mark Jankowski’s pass from behind the net set up Okposo in the slot for a one-timer, his ninth goal of the season.
Tuch boosted Buffalo’s advantage 12 seconds into the third period. Receiving a pass from Jeff Skinner in front of the net, Tuch spun around and lifted the puck over Merzlikins’ left pad for his sixth goal in 14 games with the Sabres since being acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights in a trade for former captain Jack Eichel.
Dahlin scored his eighth to tie the score at 3:27 of the second. Using Thompson’s screen in front of the net, Dahlin sent a shot from the point that hit Merzlikins’ glove on its way into the net. Video review confirmed the on-ice official’s ruling that the puck was not touched by Thompson’s high stick.
Columbus took the lead 9:05 into the first when Roslovic tallied his eighth goal on a pass from the left corner that ricocheted off the skate of Buffalo defenseman Mark Pysyk.
Blue Jackets: D Gavin Bayreuther went to the dressing room in the third period after he missed a check and crashed into the boards. Larsen said he will be evaluated on Friday but was in good spirits after the game. … Laine played with a wrap on his left wrist. He was listed as a game-time decision after leaving the ice during Wednesday’s practice in Buffalo. … F Carson Meyer was a healthy scratch following his call-up from the minors on Wednesday. Meyer would have made his NHL debut if Laine could not play.
Sabres: F Casey Mittelstadt returned to practice in a non-contact jersey Wednesday before missing his 38th game with an upper-body injury.
Blue Jackets: Continue road trip Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens, who this week named former Columbus special teams consultant Martin St. Louis as interim head coach.
Sabres: At Montreal on Sunday.
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