Clifton’s first goal with Sabres leads to 2-1 victory

AP Photo Buffalo Sabres defenseman Connor Clifton, right, celebrates after his goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the third period Friday in Columbus, Ohio.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Connor Clifton broke a third-period tie with his first goal in nearly a year, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 25 stops and the Buffalo Sabres beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 on Friday night.

Clifton’s shot from the blue line bounced into the net off Columbus goalie Daniil Tarasov’s shoulder 3:05 into the third period. The Buffalo defenseman hadn’t scored in 71 games, since March 2, 2023, when he played for Boston.

Zemgus Girgensons also scored for the Sabres, who have won two straight and four of their last six. They started the day in the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference wild-card race.

Dmitri Voronkov scored and Tarasov made 36 stops as the Blue Jackets again failed to string two wins together, a feat they haven’t accomplished since November 22 and 24.

Voronkov got his 15th goal of the season on a power play when linemate Kirill Marchenko set him up with tap pass across the goal mouth with 7:55 left in the first period.

Later in the first, Girgensons’ shot from the left circle was deflected in by Tarasov, who got a glove on it despite an effective screen by the Sabres’ Kyle Okposo. That was all the scoring until Clifton’s long-distance tally in the third.

NOTES: Sabres D Erik Johnson sat out with an illness. … The Blue Jackets Johnny Gaudreau made it back from Anaheim to be there for the birth of his second child, Johnny Edward Gaudreau, on Thursday night. … F Alex Nylander, acquired from Pittsburgh for F Emil Bemstrom on Thursday, was a scratch for Columbus.


Sabres: Host Carolina on Sunday night.

Blue Jackets: Host New York Rangers on Sunday night.


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