A much-needed bounce back for Red Wings occurred in what turned into a scary moment at Joe Louis Arena. Their 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres kept them even with the Philadelphia Flyers with just six games left in the season.
After their horrible loss to the Penguins where the chance for two points went down the drain, Detroit had one chance to gain two points while they had two things running for them. The Red Wings had been able to defeat the Sabres Dec. 1 where it took a shootout and Brad Richards to win it for them. In what becomes their last meeting and Detroit winning three of four so far, taking four of five means so much to them to stay in contention to make playoffs.
The game got to a slow start for both teams but the Red Wings had some movement that allowed them two shots in the first five minutes. By the time half the period elapsed, they managed four shots at Sabres goalie Chad Johnson but failed to convert on their opening power play.
Detroit had a messy show of defense when Buffalo’s Nicolas Deslauriers nearly had a goal on Jimmy Howard who got back in net for his team. They recovered by moving the game into the Sabres end making a necessary change to stay even with their opponents.
The Red Wings began elevating their shots with most of the young guns using their strategy to get a lead before the period came to an end. When they gained a third chance on the power play with 1:28 left, Dylan Larkin was on point to fire a shot targeting the stick side of Johnson to gain his 22nd and first since March. 19. With the rookie back on the score sheet, he clearly assisted in Detroit being the difference make while the game was still young. They allowed the Sabres five shots and dominated them on the faceoff winning three of every four taken.
The Sabres got a man advantage early in the second but the Red Wings PK did work to blow it out of the water. When they gained possession of the puck, Detroit’s top line got to work almost making it 2-0 on a Justin Abdelkader drive that hit the crossbar behind Johnson. Detroit continued taking great scoring chances at Buffalo and even though they were coming up short at times their chance for a second was coming.
It arrived at the hands of Riley Sheahan who had the puck in possession and weaved through the Sabres defense before snapping the puck into the let watching it rattle away for his 12th while unassisted. While in the increase of shots to the net didn’t take off, the Red Wings played strong defense to prevent the Sabres from suddenly marching back in the period. Buffalo barely had time with the puck let alone the speed to catch up with Detroit recording four shots on Howard.
With the lack of offense from the Sabres, the third period turned into an opportunity to work on defense. For 17 minutes the Red Wings took their chances in the Sabres zone while limiting their opponents to as very little as possible. Coach Dan Bylsma pulled Johnson from the net with 3:15 left on the clock but it went bad for them right away. Abdelkader got the puck with the Detroit line creating an opportunity to score easy.
Captain Henrik Zetterberg got the puck to Luke Glendening to score his eighth. When it looked like Howard would get the shutout, he was denied by a win in the neutral zone by Buffalo where a setup for Zemgus Girgensons got him his sixth of the season.
Things got worrisome for Detroit when Sam Reinhart got a piece of the net from a side shot position notching their second goal in 61 seconds. There was still 1:49 left in the game but the Red Wings did everything to prevent another embarrassing loss on their home ice. Buffalo pressured in the Red Wings zone with six men still on the ice for them. They took a few more chances at the net but their loss of control in the final seconds saved the Red Wings from overtime.
Howard notched another win on his belt stopping 18 of their 20 shots on goal to get his 11th victory. With no time to spare, they’ll go into Montreal to take on the Canadiens for a second time in a week where they could take a step ahead of the Flyers or remain at status quo by the end of Tuesday.