Kukan scores twice, Blue Jackets beat Sabres 7-3
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Dean Kukan had two goals and an assist, Jean-Francois Berube stopped 33 shots in his first NHL start in nearly four years, and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Buffalo Sabres 7-3 Sunday night.
Brendan Gaunce had a goal and two assists and Boone Jenner had a goal and an assist for Columbus, while and Zach Werenski, Gus Nyquist and Justin Danforth also scored. Patrik Laine added two assists as the Blue Jackets won for the seventh time in nine games and swept the three-game season series with Buffalo.
Berube last played April 6, 2018, for Chicago in a loss to St. Louis.
“That’s why I play hockey, to be here,” Berube said. “Lots of emotion tonight. I’ve been through some tough times. I always kept my eyes where I wanted to be.”
Mark Pysyk, Tage Thompson and Kyle Okposo scored for Buffalo. Craig Anderson stopped 32 shots in the Sabres’ third straight loss.
“We just looked tired,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “Tired plays, tired mistakes, physically tired, mentally tired a little. We just couldn’t finish simple stuff.”
Kukan put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 3:28 of the second period with his second of the night, a wrister from the blue line that caught Anderson by surprise to mark his first two-goal game and first three-point game.
“We had an excellent start,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larson said. “I liked their legs. They were throwing pucks and playing very simple, and that brought us into the game.”
Columbus looked to go up 4-2 less than a minute later but Laine’s goal was waived off for offsides. Werenski, however, got that goal back at 8:16 off a perfect feed from Oliver Bjorkstrand that made it 4-2.
Gaunce’s breakaway off a perfect feed from Laine at 17:43 of the second period put Columbus ahead 5-2 but Buffalo pulled within two goals with 32 seconds left in the second after Okposo poked the puck through a scrum in front of the crease.
Nyquist scored an empty-netter with 36 seconds remaining, and Danforth made it 7-3 with 4 seconds left in his first game back since suffering a knee sprain Dec. 30.
Kukan put Columbus on the board at 4:47 of the first, burying the second rebound given up by Anderson after a barrage of Blue Jackets shots for his second goal of the season and first since Jan. 4.
“It was a really fun game,” Kukan said. “It’s not every night I score two goals—or even score. It was a fun night for all of us.”
Pysyk pulled Buffalo even with 4:55 left in the first with just the Sabres’ second shot of the game, for his first goal since Dec. 16.
Buffalo went up 2-1 with Thompson’s shot from the left circle with 2:26 remaining in the period, tying him for the team lead with 20 goals.
That lead lasted just 10 seconds as Jenner buried a rebound of Jakub Voracek’s shot to pull Columbus even with his team-leading 21st goal of the season.
The Blue Jackets have come from behind in 15 of their 25 wins, including five of their last seven victories.
Max Domi’s assist on Kukan’s goal was the 200th of his NHL career. He is one goal away from 100 in his career and one point away from 300.
Buffalo’s Thompson has notched 22 points (10-12) in his last 20 games. Columbus’ Laine has posted points in nine straight games (10-8). Weresnki’s second-period goal extended his point streak to five games (2-4).
GONE GOALIE GONE
Elvis Merzlikins left Blue Jackets practice Saturday with a lower body injury and Joonas Korpisalo remains day-to-day with an injury. To address the goalie gaps, Columbus signed Jet Greaves to a three-year, entry level contract through the 2023-24 season. Greaves, 20, signed an American Hockey League Contract with the Cleveland Monsters on July 30, 2021, made his professional debut with the Monsters and ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings this season.
Jenner’s first period goal tied him with Nick Foligno at 142 goals in a Blue Jackets sweater, third on the franchise list. Only Rick Nash (289) and Cam Atkinson (213) have scored more.
Tonight’s game wrapped up Buffalo’s ninth of 16 sets of back-to-back games this season, which began with a 5-3 loss vs. Colorado Saturday. The Sabres are 3-5-1 in the first game and 1-3-4 in the second game so far this season.
Buffalo played without defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who suffered a lower body injury Saturday against Colorado. Robert Hagg filled his spot.
BACK IN BLUE
Columbus activated forward Danforth off injured reserve after losing him for nearly two months due to a knee sprain. Forward Trey Fix-Wolansky was assigned to the Cleveland Monsters.
Sabres: At Montreal on Wednesday night.
Blue Jackets: Host Toronto on Tuesday night.