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Third-period goal pushes Sabres past Blue Jackets

Feb 23, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Connor Clifton (75) checks Columbus Blue Jackets center Sean Kuraly (7) during the first period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Connor Clifton scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period to lift the Buffalo Sabres to a 2-1 win against the host Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

Zemgus Girgensons also scored and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 25 saves for the Sabres, who have won two in a row and three of their past four games.

Dmitri Voronkov scored and Daniil Tarasov turned aside 36 shots for Columbus, which has lost four of six.

Clifton put Buffalo ahead 2-1 with his first of the season at 3:05 of the final period, sending a point shot through traffic that deflected off Tarasov’s arm and into the net.

Voronkov gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead on a power play at 12:05 of the first period. Ivan Provorov sent a pass from the point to Kirill Marchenko at the right of the net, and Marchenko quickly dished it over to Voronkov, who was at the top of the crease to put it past Luukkonen’s stick.

It was his fourth power-play goal, tying him with New Jersey Devils defenseman Luke Hughes for most by a rookie this season.

Four minutes later, Columbus came close to getting an opportunity on a four-on-two rush, but Clifton poked away Jack Roslovic’s pass attempt to Johnny Gaudreau in the right circle, setting up a two-on-one the other way.

That led to sustained pressure for the Sabres, and they capitalized. After Kyle Okposo’s pass to Eric Robinson in front deflected up, Girgensons collected the loose puck in the corner and took it to the left wall before firing it short side past a screened Tarasov to tie it 1-1 at 16:16.

The Blue Jackets thought they had a 2-1 lead with just over two minutes remaining in the second period on a Yegor Chinakhov drive to the net, but officials reviewed the play and confirmed no goal. Chinakhov hit Luukkonen’s right pad as he shot, deflecting the puck up into the left post before landing on the netminder’s right shoulder and then in front of him before he covered it.

–Field Level Media

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