COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A long midseason break apparently was just what Conor Sheary needed.
Coming back from a bye week followed by the All-Star weekend, the Buffalo Sabres forward was ready, ending an 11-game goal drought with the winner Tuesday night.
Sheary got an easy tap-in 2:12 into the third period to lift Buffalo over the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4.
Artemi Panarin was roundly booed by his home fans when he was introduced in the starting lineup. This was Columbus’ first game since Panarin’s agent said the star forward would not discuss a new contract until after the season. Panarin will be an unrestricted free agent. He wasn’t made available for interviews after the game.
Sheary and linemate Evan Rodrigues each had a goal and an assist for the Sabres, who had lost four of five before getting the time off. Sheary has struggled all season and hadn’t scored since before Christmas.
“Coming off the break, I had fresh legs and was well-rested,” Sheary said. “I have to give credit to my linemates when credit is due. I think our line in general was buzzing all night and we had good chemistry, and I think all that together just added up to a good night.”
Carter Hutton had 33 saves to get his first win since Jan. 8.
Buffalo had a solid game except for a stretch at the end of the second period when Columbus scored two quick goals to tie it at 4. That set up Sheary’s go-ahead goal, and Hutton shut down Columbus the rest of the way.
Coach Phil Housely said the break benefited the Sabres, who are in fifth place in the Atlantic Division.
“I just thought it was a reboot,” he said, “We talked about it the first day back on Sunday, just getting back to what has made us successful, going back to training camp and our thought process through that. I think for the most part we did a really good job.”
Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson each had a goal an assist for Columbus, and Sergei Bobrovsky had 29 saves.
The Blue Jackets, who also were coming off a bye week, lost their third in a row as they try to stay among the leaders in the Metropolitan Division. They dropped both ends of a back-to-back before the break after winning four straight.
“They were quicker, they won more battles,” said Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky, who scored in the second period. “A pretty unacceptable game almost all the way through.”
Rodrigues opened the scoring 2:15 into the game when he put back Casey Mittlestadt’s rebound. Dubois tied it up for Columbus a minute later, redirecting Ryan Murray’s shot.
Later in the first, Rasmus Ristolainen flicked a nice pass to Sam Reinhart, who finished from the slot. Two minutes later, Tage Thompson beat Bobrovsky to give Buffalo a 3-1 lead.
Foligno poked a goal past Sutton on a power play 21 seconds into the second period. Before the Nationwide Arena crowd had finished celebrating, Skinner gave Buffalo a two-goal lead again on a breakaway.
The Blue Jackets’ two quick ones late in the second period erased the Buffalo lead.
NOTES: Rodrigues has scored in each of the last four games and has points in six of his last seven. … Ristolainen has four assists in the last four games. … Columbus F Markus Hannikainen returned after being out since Jan. 8 because of an elbow injury. … The Blue Jackets called up center Mark Letestu from Cleveland (AHL) before the game, but he was a healthy scratch. … Columbus F Boone Jenner sat out with an unspecified injury. Lukas Sedlak replaced him.
Buffalo: At Dallas on Wednesday.
Columbus: At Winnipeg on Thursday.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Follow Mitch Stacy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mitchstacy