Marchenko's hat trick leads Blue Jackets to rout of Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Kirill Marchenko scored three consecutive times, and the Columbus Blue Jackets enjoyed their most productive outing in more than seven years with a 9-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.
It came at the expense of a spiraling team that left an unhappy fanbase booing the Sabres off the ice, and leading to first-time chants of “Fire Donnie,” directed at coach Don Granato.
Johnny Gaudreau had a goal and two assists, and Sean Kuraly, Adam Fantilli, Cole Sillinger and Kent Johnson had a goal and assist apiece. Erik Gudbranson also scored in an outing the Blue Jackets broke open by scoring seven consecutive times over a 21:52 stretch spanning the first and second periods.
Daniil Tarasov stopped 25 shots in bouncing back from a 6-3 loss to New Jersey in his season debut on Saturday.
“When we play all together, it’s easy,” Marchenko said, referring to his all-Russian linemates rounded out by Yegor Chinakhov and Dmitri Voronkov. “We have more confidence, we want to score more goals and just do next step, think about next step.”
The nine goals were Columbus’ most since a 10-0 win against Montreal on Nov. 4, 2016.
The Sabres (13-17-3) took yet another step backward in season they’ve won consecutive games just once, and fell to 3-7-1 in their past 11. Buffalo is already in jeopardy of extending its NHL-record playoff drought to a 13th season.
Very little went right after Rasmus Dahlin opened the scoring 30 seconds in. Captain Kyle Okposo ended the Blue Jackets’ seven-goal surge by scoring with 66 seconds left in the second period. Casey Mittelstadt had three assists, and Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens also scored.
“Listen, I’m not gonna sit here and bash the coaches. I’m not gonna talk about us quitting. I’m not gonna talk about Donnie and us not listening,” an emotional Okposo said. “That’s on everybody in this room. Everybody. Probably myself more, and I’ll take the blame for not having the group ready. Put it all on me. That’s fine. I’ll take that.”
Granato kept his emotions in check in backing his players by calling them “resilient” and saying “they care.”
“I’m confident we will resolve this,” Granato said.
As for his job security, the third-year coach said: “My concern is on making this group better tomorrow. It was my concern from Day 1, and it’ll stay my concern. We are going to make this team better.”
The nine goals against were the most allowed by Buffalo since a 10-4 loss to Dallas in March.
Marchenko’s first goal was the highlight in putting Columbus ahead 3-1 with 12 seconds left in the first period. The 23-year-old accepted Gaudreau’s pass to the left of the net and in one fluid motion slipped the puck through his legs and flipped it in for a power-play goal.
“He’s so skilled and he’s a great human, great person, great teammate, and it’s fun to watch him play well, score goals,” Gaudreau said of Marchenko, who enjoyed his second career three-goal outing.
Blue Jackets: Host Washington on Thursday night.
Sabres: Host Toronto on Thursday night.
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