Sunday, September 11, 2011

Columbus vs. Buffalo: Day 2 at the 2011 NHL Prospects Tournament


The luck of the draw on David’s Rink at Centre ICE Arena today for the 2011 NHL Prospects Tournament was that all four teams playing their today won their games yesterday. That made today’s games key to put the winners in the driver’s seat for a berth in Wednesday’s championship game. First up were the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Buffalo Sabres.

Buffalo tried to dictate the tempo early on a couple of early power play chances. But Scott Szydlowski missed the net on a great opportunity to the right of Columbus goalie Mathieu Corbeil, who was moving laterally trying to make the save. Buffalo’s blueliners (particularly Alex Lepkowski and Mark Pysyk) struggled to keep the puck in the Columbus zone with the man advantage. The Blue Jackets would start to mount some offensive opportunity of their own, as Ryan Johansen nestled himself in front of Sabres’ netminder Ryan Rondeau. But Rondeau stoned Johansen by flashing the leather on a great glove save at point blank range, and later slid his left leg pad across the crease on a sprawling save to deny Boone Jenner.

The Sabres would eventually strike pay dirt first on Riley Boychuk’s seeing-eye shot from the left wing that found Corbeil’s five-hole with 4:17 left in the first. Buffalo struck again just 1:04 later when Gregg Sutch (who was bumped up to third-line status after a stellar game yesterday while teamed with Jonathan Parker and Phil Varone) tickled the twine, giving Buffalo a 2-0 lead they would take into the lockerroom.

Early in the second, Jenner got the Blue Jackets on the board on a wrister Rondeau got a piece of, but watched trickle behind him into the net just 1:55 into the second stanza. Columbus then got the equalizer nearly 2 minutes later with the man advantage when Cody Goloubef’s shot from the right face-off dot beat Rondeau short-side to knot things up to 2. The Jackets kept applying pressure in the Buffalo zone, with Johansen and top-line mate Cam Atkinson creating more traffic in front of Rondeau.

Buffalo kept looking for opportunities but were shut down by the Columbus defensive corps (headed up on the blueline by John Moore and Dalton Prout). The Sabres’ Marcus Foligno blasted a powerful slapshot that Corbeil was able to handle, but found himself second-guessing by looking into the net behind him. Buffalo finally capitalized on a brutal turnover deep in their zone that Szydlowski potted for an unassisted marker with 2:44 left in the second to restore the Sabres’ lead at 3-2.

Buffalo carried that late momentum into the third with a carry-over power play following a foolish elbowing penalty on the Jackets’ Mike Thomas near the end of the second. Luke Adam took a Zack Kassian feed, deking past Corbeil across the crease and beating him top shelf (where mama hides the cookies!) on Corbeil’s stick side just 10 seconds into the final frame, boosting the Sabres’ lead to 4-2. But Columbus bounced back quickly just 15 ticks later when Johansen fed Atkinson on a furious rush, cutting the deficit back to one at 4-3. The tempo remained speedy and physical, and even though the refs put their whistles away (no penalties were called in the third), no chippiness or rough stuff ensued.

Cedrick Henley scooped up a big rebound on Jacob Lagace’s initial shot from the inside edge of the right faceoff circle to beat Corbeil at the 6:32 mark to restore Buffalo’s two goal lead. Nick Crawford fooled Corbeil short-side from the left wing just 1:01 later, and that was all she wrote.

FINAL SCORE: Buffalo 6, Columbus 3

Meanwhile, at the Huntington Rink, fans were treated to a defensive delight. The St. Louis Blues edged the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1. Jordan Binnington made 17 saves for the win, while Mavric Parks stopped 24 Blues shots in a losing effort.

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