Columbus chases Enroth in 5-1 win over Sabres

The Columbus Blue Jackets are starting to look as if they will

live up to the hype.

Rick Nash scored twice and goalie Curtis Sanford was again solid

in goal as the Blue Jackets chased Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth

early in the second period of a 5-1 victory that sent the Sabres to

a third straight loss Saturday night.

”Anytime you can get a couple goals, it takes the pressure off

big-time at home,” said Nash, who now has seven on the season.

”The guys stuck to the game plan right off the start and it seemed

to work.”

The Blue Jackets are on a five-game points streak and are 4-1-2

run since a brutal 2-12-1 start.

Mark Letestu, Marc Methot and R.J. Umberger also scored for

Columbus, who broke out with their highest goal output and largest

margin of victory this season.

”We haven’t had many of those games, obviously,” Blue Jackets

coach Scott Arniel said. ”It was nice just to roll the lines.

We’ve been doing a lot of good things the last couple of weeks. We

said how our play without the puck was going to lead to

offense.”

Rookie Ryan Johansen, James Wisniewski and Jeff Carter each

added two assists for Columbus, which controlled the game, except

for a short stretch in the second period, in front of the most

energized crowd of the season.

Sanford finished with 28 saves improving to 3-0-2 as a starter

for the Blue Jackets.

”We’re getting pucks deep, we’re not making it hard on

ourselves,” Nash said of the team’s recent surge. ”We’re trying

not to have any turnovers at the blue lines. It’s just a lot

simpler game. It seems to work for the people we have in this

room.”

Jordan Leopold scored for the injury-riddled Sabres, who played

with energy but were out-of-sync coming off an emotional overtime

loss to Boston on Wednesday in which they twice squandered two-goal

leads.

Enroth has been a surprising success with the Sabres this season

– and will have to play a larger role now with star Ryan Miller

sidelined with a concussion – coming into play with an 7-2-1

record. But he was yanked after allowing four goals on 18 shots in

just 24:29 of action Friday.

”I don’t know if I’ve seen it this bad before,” said Buffalo’s

Lindy Ruff, the league’s longest-tenured coach. ”I think we’ve got

seven regulars out of the lineup. We need to make better plays than

we did tonight. Obviously when you’re short-handed you’ve got to be

good with the puck.”

To make matters worse, tough defenseman Robyn Regehr was injured

during the game and didn’t return.

Letestu was the first to beat Enroth. He got position on rookie

defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani in the slot to snap home a rebound

from the right circle midway through the opening period. The goal

was Letestu’s third in eight games since being acquired from

Pittsburgh earlier in the month.

Nash scored six minutes later with Gragnani in the box for

interference, redirecting Wisniewski’s point shot for the

power-play goal.

The Blue Jackets doubled their lead in a span of 12 seconds

early in the second period to chase Enroth.

Methot, a defenseman, sent a wrist shot through traffic to make

it 3-0 at 4:17 and snap a 101-game goal-drought.

Then Umberger out-muscled Drew Stafford to stuff home a loose

puck that was sliding along the goal line for just his third.

Johansen tossed a hard-angle shot from the half boards that sneaked

between Enroth’s pads.

Leopold gave the Sabres some hope with a goal at 8:01, slicing

into the Columbus zone and around Wisniewski before scoring his

fifth from the left circle over Sanford.

A few minutes later with Buffalo on the power play and gaining

momentum, Sanford robbed Luke Adam twice. Once at the doorstep and

sliding across the crease to make a spectacular toe save.

”That was probably the most important part of the game,”

Sanford said. ”Getting the kill at that time was huge. They could

have brought to back to two goals but the guys did a really good

job boxing out their guys and letting me see the puck.”

Three minutes after Sanford’s stand, Carter feathered a

cross-zone pass to a streaking Nash, who one-timed his seventh into

an open net to make it 5-1.

”We already got ourselves in a huge hole so it had to start

coming to salvage the season,” Umberger said. ”We still have a

long way to go.”

NOTES: Columbus LW Vinny Prospal became the 268th player to play

1,000 career games in the NHL and is the sixth Czech with that

distinction. He leads the Blue Jackets in scoring with 19 points in

22 games. He was Philadelphia’s second pick, 71st overall, in the

1993 Entry Draft. … Drew MacIntyre finished with 15 stops in

relief of Enroth, who had won all four of his previous road starts

this year. … Zach Kassian, Buffalo’s first-round pick in the 2009

draft, made his NHL debut and picked up the primary assist on

Leopold’s goal. … Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel served as an

assistant to Sabres coach Lindy Ruff from 2002-06. … The Sabres

entered tied with San Jose for the best road record at 7-2-0.