COLUMBUS, Ohio – Paul Gaustad scored the winner late on a power play, and four other Buffalo players scored as the Sabres held on to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 on Saturday night in the season finale for both teams.
With the game tied 3-3, Drew Stafford and Gaustad, who also had an assist, scored on a five-minute major to former Buffalo captain Craig Rivet for cross-checking Tyler Ennis.
Jason Pominville added a goal and an assist, and Chris Butler and Ennis also scored for Buffalo, which holds the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres could have moved up to sixth, but Montreal beat Toronto 4-1
Brad Boyes added three assists for the Sabres, who went 28-11-6 since Jan. 1 to earn the most points in the East during that span and propel them into a playoff berth.
Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller played only the first half of the game to rest for the playoffs and allowed one goal on 21 shots. Jhonas Enroth finished for the Sabres.
Kristian Huselius scored twice, and Derek Dorsett and Jared Boll also scored for Columbus, which finished the season with three regulation wins over its last 22 games. The Blue Jackets did put up the second-highest point total (81) in franchise history.
It seemed as if the streaking Sabres were going to pull away after they took a 3-1 lead with three consecutive scores in the second period, but the Blue Jackets rallied and Huselius tied it early in the third on a snap shot.
The game turned for good when Rivet cracked his former teammate and was ejected at 11:44.
Stafford scored a highlight-reel goal, spinning in front of Mason and flipping in his 31st of the season on the power play.
Gaustad followed a minute later with a redirection.
Huselius scored with the advantage with 23 seconds left to cap the scoring.
The Blue Jackets struck first early in the second frame with Dorsett beating Miller on the wrap-around.
Buffalo responded three minutes later with Pominville blasting a one-timer from the high slot for his 22nd.
On a relentless forecheck all night, the Sabres stole the puck and scored again midway through the period before Butler fired a slap shot from the left circle past Mason.
Stafford forced another turnover leading to an easy goal for Ennis — his 20th — from in front at 15:12.
Boll cut the lead to 3-2 a minute later, stuffing home a rebound after a drive to the net by Matt Calvert.
NOTES: Last season, Buffalo won the Northeast Division and was the East's third seed. ... The Blue Jackets were swept by the Red Wings in the first round of their only playoff appearance two seasons ago. ... Columbus RW Rick Nash missed the final six games because of a back injury. ... Sabres leading-scorer Thomas Vanek, who netted the overtime winner against Philadelphia on Friday night in a game that clinched a playoff berth, was a healthy scratch. ... The announced crowd on Fan Appreciation Night was 18,717, the Blue Jackets' sixth sellout of the season. ... Buffalo won for the first time in Columbus in five games.