BUFFALO, N.Y. — Look out NHL, Victor “"Goal-ofsson" is back.
Taking two periods to shake off the rust after missing six weeks with a sprained left ankle, Buffalo forward Victor Olofsson quickly rediscovered his scoring touch in the Sabres' 4-3 overtime win over the depleted Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.
Olofsson's one-timer for his rookie-leading 10th power-play goal tied it at 2 early in the third. He then scored his 18th goal 2:44 into overtime
“It's big for my confidence,” Olofsson said. “I didn’t feel great the first couple periods, so I needed some time to find my game. But right now, it feels great.”
The 24-year-old from Sweden is a late bloomer, picking up the nickname “Goal-ofsson” after leading Buffalo's minor league affiliate with 30 goals as an AHL rookie last year.
And to think, coach Ralph Krueger had to coax Olofsson back into the lineup.
“We had to convince him yesterday he was good to go,” Krueger said. “He wanted to be 100%, and we told him that if he would've had some fatigue we could have injected people. But that never showed up.”
Olofsson certainly didn't look tired on the decisive goal.
Catching the Blue Jackets on a line change, Jack Eichel gained the Columbus zone by driving up the left wing. He then headed below the goal line before dropping a pass to Olofsson, who converted a one-timer from the slot.
Eichel had a goal and two assists on a night when the Sabres honoured members of their 2000 decade teams as part of the franchise's season-long 50th anniversary celebration. Evan Rodrigues also scored, and Carter Hutton stopped 28 shots to improve to 4-1 in his past five starts.
The Blue Jackets dropped to 0-1-2 in their past three games in their worst skid since losing four straight from Nov. 30 to Dec. 7.
Columbus squandered a 2-0 lead, but salvaged a point on Markus Nutivaara’s tap-in goal with 1:13 remaining in regulation.
Nathan Gerbe and Boone Jenner also scored for the Blue Jackets, who lost 2-1 to Buffalo in overtime on Feb. 1. Matiss Kivlenieks stopped 23 shots.
Columbus coach John Tortorella said the game changed when Eichel cut the lead to 2-1 by scoring on an odd-man rush with 1:13 remaining in the second.
“The play at the end of the second period is just stupid, just stupid,” Tortorella said, noting how three veteran forwards, including captain Nick Foligno, got caught in the Sabres end.
“You know that goal gives them life. They're dead in the water after two periods if we're up 2-0,” he added. “It's just stupid and quite honestly selfish. And that put us in a jam.”
The four goals allowed were the most given up by the defensive-minded Blue Jackets since a 4-3 overtime loss at Ottawa on Dec. 14. Columbus also lost a game when leading through two periods for just the sixth time this season, dropping to 13-2-4.
The Blue Jackets can't afford many missteps in what's setting up to be a tightly contested Eastern Conference playoff race. They are tied with Philadelphia in holding the conference's final two wild-card spots.
Columbus played its second game since losing top defenceman Seth Jones and one of their top scorers, Cam Atkinson, to injuries.
Jones, who is fourth on the team with 30 points, will miss the remainder of the season with an ankle injury, while Atkinson will be sidelined for two to three weeks with a lower-body injury.
Columbus was already without Brandon Dubinsky, who has missed the entire season with a wrist injury, and starting goalie Joonas Korpisalo, who has resumed practicing, but missed his 19th game with a knee injury.
REMEMBERING THE 2000s
The Sabres honoured members of their teams from the 2000s during a pregame ceremony.
Among the former players in attendance were co-captain Daniel Briere, Jason Pominville, Jay McKee and Rhett Warrener, who was a member of the Sabres team that lost to Dallas in the 1999 Stanley Cup Final.
Also on hand was former owner Thomas Golisano, who prevented the franchise from relocating by purchasing it out of bankruptcy in the spring of 2003. The Sabres were forced into bankruptcy after the NHL took control of the team from John Rigas, who was eventually convicted of looting his television cable system, Adelphia.
The Sabres produced a video broadcast on the scoreboard personally thanking Golisano for preserving the team in Buffalo.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman attended the game to be with Golisano, and both were presented golden Sabres pucks for their stewardship of the team.
NOTES: Blue Jackets Liam Foudy picked up his first NHL point in his second game with an assist on Jenner’s goal. The 2018 first-round draft pick was called up on an emergency basis from his Ontario Hockey League team in London. NHL rules required Columbus to return Foudy to the juniors for London's game Friday. ... The Sabres sent F Scott Wilson to the minors, with Olofsson and Kyle Okposo (upper body) activated off injured reserve. … Sabres LW Marcus Johansson did not play and is day to day with an upper-body injury.
Blue Jackets: Host the New York Rangers on Friday night.
Sabres: Host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night for the finale of a four-game homestand.
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