COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Jeff Skinner had a goal and two assists, lifting the Buffalo Sabres to a 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night in the season finale for both teams.
Casey Mittelstadt had a goal and an assist, and Victor Olofsson, Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs also scored for Buffalo. Devon Levi stopped 29 shots for the Sabres, who were eliminated from playoff contention for the 12th straight season, the longest active postseason drought in the NHL.
“I thought our guys came out and were dialed in, committed to the result,” Buffalo coach Don Granato said. “Big win today. It didn’t happen early, but we stayed on it.”
Johnny Gaudreau and Tyler Angler scored for Columbus, which ended its season in 31st place and is guaranteed one of the top four picks in the NHL Draft. Jon Gillies stopped 24 shots before being replaced in the third period by Michael Hutchinson, who finished with seven saves.
“It’s the end of the season and we know we’re out,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “It’s a difficult game all the way around.”
Gaudreau put Columbus up 34 seconds into the first period, but much of the second period belonged to Buffalo, which got goals from Skinner, Olofsson and Tuch in a span of less than six minutes.
Angler’s first NHL goal pulled Columbus within one with 1:36 left in the second before Buffalo got third-period goals from Mittelstadt and Krebs.
“We had a lot of chances early,” Skinner said. “Their goalie made some good saves. We had to stick with it, and it paid off.”
Tage Thompson, Buffalo’s leader in goals and points, did not play due to an upper body injury. Henri Jokiharju suffered a lower-body injury in the first period and did not return. He skated just 2:43. Gilles suffered a lower body injury in the second period and did not return.
LONG TIME GONE
The Sabres, who last made the Stanley Cup playoffs in the 2010-’11 season, are tied with the New York Jets for the longest active playoff drought across MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
This game was originally scheduled to be played on Dec. 27 but was moved after inclement weather in Buffalo prevented the Sabres from traveling.
FINE FOR FIVE
With his win tonight, Levi is one of three goaltenders in Sabres history to win at least five of the first seven games of his career, joining Jacques Cloutier (1981-’82) and Don Edwards (1976-’77).
Mittelstadt and Tuch both extended their point streaks to six games, the longest of their careers.