Detroit got goals by Jakub Kindl, Johan Franzen, and Valtteri Filppula in a span of less than six minutes in the first period, and Jimmy Howard did the rest by making 27 saves as the Wings extended their winning streak with a 4-1 victory at Buffalo on Friday night.
Pavel Datsyuk added an empty-netter with 1:17 left for the Wings, who have their longest winning streak since March 20-April 1, 2010. Detroit has also won four in a row on the road -- and 18 of its last 22 meetings against the Sabres.
"We feel we have a good team when we play with tempo and we play right," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We have a lot of good players with a lot of experience, and have a good calmness about us. We don't get too high or too low, we just keep on playing. We think we have a chance to be a good team, but only time will tell."
The Wings have been a different team since back-to-back losses during their recent West Coast trip -- the only defeats in their last 13 games.
"We made a decision when we went out west not to be a mentally soft team," Howard said. "We want to be mentally tough. This game is full of mistakes, so it's how you respond after making them. We've gotten a lot mentally tougher since then."
They showed that mental toughness during the second period, when they killed three straight penalties to keep the Sabres off the board. Of course, having Howard in goal also helped.
"They had some opportunities to get back into the game in the second and get a goal," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "But Jimmy really stepped up for us."
Howard, making his 17th straight start, robbed Jason Pominville alone in the slot in the second period and denied Nathan Gerbe on a third-period breakaway. He lost his shutout when Jochen Hecht scored his third goal in four games with 6:13 left in regulation, beating Howard from the left circle on a 2-on-1 break with Pominville.
Jhonas Enroth, making his ninth straight start in place of No. 1 goalie Ryan Miller, made 32 saves for the Sabres, who have lost three of four to drop to 13-11-1.
Miller dressed as his backup -- the first time he's been in uniform since sustaining a concussion nearly three weeks ago -- and may start Saturday at Nashville.
Kindl opened the scoring 8:50 when his weak wrister from the left point beat a partially screened Enroth. Franzen made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 13:38 and Filppula scored 1:03 later for a three-goal lead after Hecht coughed up the puck to Henrik Zetterberg. Filppula has five goals and two assists in his past five games.
In all, the Wings outshot the Sabres 18-8 in the opening period.
"That first period showed how a top team plays in the NHL," Buffalo defenseman Robyn Regehr said. "We have to be a lot sharper right off the bat. We have to work much harder and be harder on the pucks. Once (Detroit) gets the puck, they make very disciplined decisions."
The Sabres were without regular defensemen Tyler Myers (broken wrist) and Jordan Leopold (upper-body injury) but did get some help with the return of forwards Tyler Ennis and Patrick Kaleta. But they fell to 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and have scored just twice in back-to-back home losses to the Islanders and Wings.
"We've got to win a game, that's the bottom line," forward Thomas Vanek said. "We've got to make a run here."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report
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