COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Columbus Blue Jackets struggled on the power-play again, but they keep finding ways to do just enough to win.
The Blue Jackets managed just three shots and no goals on three power plays in Tuesday night’s 3-1 win over Buffalo and haven’t scored with a man-advantage since March 13. That’s becoming a concern as they battle their Metropolitan League foes down the stretch for home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
Cam Atkinson got his team-leading 34th goal and eighth game-winner of the season, and Sergei Bobrovsky had 41 saves to power the Blue Jackets.
Kyle Quincey also scored for Columbus, getting his first goal since being acquired from New Jersey on March 1. Brandon Saad got an empty-net goal with 1:05 left after Buffalo pulled its goalie for an extra skater.
Columbus coach John Tortorella said there are problems to work out before the playoffs start next month.
“We’re just not consistent enough with our offense and our power play,” Tortorella said, “We’re stuck, we’re stuck in the mud.”
The win put the Blue Jackets two points ahead of idle Pittsburgh in second place in the Metropolitan Division as they battle for home-ice advantage in the playoffs next month. Columbus won its second straight to improve to 7-2-1 in its last 10.
Bobrovsky got his league-leading 41st win, following a 1-0 shutout win over Philadelphia on Saturday in which he had 36 saves.
“We put a lot of pressure on Bobrovsky in the first (period),” Buffalo coach Dan Bylsma said. “We had a couple good, grade A, in-tight chances and second chances, but a good portion of the shots were not with enough traffic on Bobrovsky to get one by him.”
Evan Rodrigues scored for Buffalo , and Anders Nilsson had 26 saves as the Sabres lost for the first time in three games.
“Honestly I think we were the better team today,” Nilsson said. “We deserved to win, but Bobrovsky played great for them. We put a lot of pressure on him and we created a lot of chances, and he had the bounces on his side for sure.”
Quincey started the scoring with 5:13 left in the first period. He was in position when a Buffalo player swept the puck away from the net after a rebound, and he found the back of the net with a wrister through some heavy traffic in front.
Atkinson got another one three minutes later when he caught up to pass from Seth Jones on a rush and beat Nilsson on the short side. It was Atkinson’s first point in five games.
Rodrigues got Buffalo on the board during a power play 10:53 into the second period when he slammed in a one-timer from the left circle.
“We had the chances,” said Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly, who had an assist on Rodrigues’ goal, his 14th point in the last 15 games. “The game was there for the taking. We didn’t play hard enough in front of (Bobrovksy). He’s a good goalie. If you give him the sight he’s going to make a lot of saves. We have to be better.”
NOTES: Buffalo D Rasmus Ristolainen served the final game of a three-game suspension for interference on Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel on March 21. … Columbus F Oliver Bjorkstrand missed a third straight game after taking a monster illegal hit from Toronto’s Roman Polak last Wednesday. … Buffalo’s Cody Franson and Taylor Fedun both missed a fifth straight game due to injury. … Columbus has scored the first goal of game 48 times, second in the NHL.
Sabres: Host the New York Islanders on Sunday.
Blue Jackets: Open a back-to-back on Thursday against Carolina.