DETROIT – If the Red Wings are to extend their current point streak to 14-straight games against the Buffalo Sabres tonight they’ll want to cut down on miscues that have prevented them from winning two games in regulation last week.
“Our turnovers have crept up over the five-game segments compared to the three previous to that,” coach Jeff Blashill said Monday after the Red Wings’ morning skate. “We had too many turnovers the other night in the third period as well.”
Last week, turnovers and penalties led to Washington and New Jersey overcoming third-period deficits en route to an eventual shootout (Capitals) and overtime (Devils).
“The best teams are the ones that are great defensively and offensively,” Blashill said. “To get to that level, we’re starting to slide too much on the spectrum towards real good offense but not good enough defensively.”
The Wings would also like to limit the opposition’s scoring opportunities.
“We’ve given up 20 chances against two of the last three games. We need to limit those. The two areas we can do that is manage our risk and limit our turnovers.”
Tonight is the second of five meetings between the Atlantic Division rivals this season. It’s also the second of three games at Joe Louis Arena. The Sabres will return to Detroit on March 28. The Red Wings will travel to Buffalo twice next month with games at HSBC Arena on Jan. 2 and Jan. 22.
The Wings’ next home win will be the franchise’s 800th at The Joe since the team moved to the downtown riverfront arena on Dec. 27, 1979.
Detroit has compiled a 799-407-119-67 (W-L-T-OTL) mark at JLA, which is the league’s best home record in that span.
For Blashill, the Wings’ home is a definite advantage for his team, which is 10-5-3 at The Joe this season.
“I think momentum is a big factor in games and as we gain momentum in this building you can really ride the momentum because of how loud the building can be,” Blashill said. “It’s obviously a real big building but it feels like (fans) are on top of you at times. So obviously it’s been a good building. We’ve had lots of good teams over the teams for certain, but I think momentum would be the No. 1 thing.”
A fairly physical period ended with the Red Wings and Sabres delivering more hits than shots on goal.
Collectively, the Atlantic Division rivals dished out a total of 27 hits and 15 shots through the opening 20 minutes of action Monday night.
As he’s been for the past several weeks, Darren Helm brought plenty of energy in the period, delivering three of the Wings 14 hits. Detroit had 11 different skaters with at least one hit, including Mike green, who had two.
The Wings had one power play opportunity in the period, but the Sabres penalty killers managed to keep the home team on the perimeter without a single shot on goalie Chad Johnson. Though Green, playing in his 600th game as an NHL defenseman, came the closest to delivering the puck to the net. His shot from inside the left face-off circle hit the post behind Johnson.
In the final 90 seconds of the period, Tomas Jurco was slightly injured when he took a puck to the face. The Red Wings’ forward, who needed five stitches to close a cut lip last Tuesday in the third period at Washington, was struck again in the face when a pass deflected off Zach Bogosian’s stick in the Sabres’ end of the ice.
The best scoring chance might have been in the last second of the period. That’s when Brendan Smith picked up a high-sticking penalty at 19:59. On the ensuing face-off, to the left of Petr Mrazek, Buffalo rookie Jack Eichel beat Luke Glendening on the draw, snapping a quick shot at the drop of the puck at the Wings’ net.
Fortunately for the Wings, Mrazek was alert on the stop as the horn sounded.
DETROIT 0, BUFFALO 0
PENALTIES: 1. DET, Zetterberg (hooking) 3:30; 2. BUF, Gorges (hooking) 8:44; 3. DET, Smith (high-sticking) 19:59.
SHOTS: Detroit 6, Buffalo 9.
It seems each game this month has been highlighted by a Helm breakaway. The speedy forward created another such chance in the first minute of the period, but failed to score.
Pavel Datsyuk’s creativity and vision led to the first goal of the game. Like magnets to steel, four Sabres – Bogosian, Sam Reinhart, Jake McCabe and Ryan O’Reilly – followed the Wing’ magic man as he moved methodically toward the slot. As the Sabres collapsed around Datsyuk he slipped a pass into the left circle where Brad Richards fired a one-timer passed Johson.
The goal at 4:01 was Richards’ second of the season. Helm also picked up an assist, his eighth point in 28 games since returning from a shoulder injury sustain on Day 1 of training camp in Traverse City.
Detroit had a chance to go up by two goals when Jurco was awarded a penalty shot with 5:04 left in the middle frame. In an attempt to catch up to Jurco who was speeding in a lone on goal, Sabres defenseman Mike Weber slashed the Wings forward from behind. As Jurco lost an edge and crashed into the near post, referee Graham Skilliter instantly pointed to center ice, signaling a penalty shot.
The opportunity was the first at Joe Louis Arena for the Wings since Cory Emmerton’s attempt against Buffalo on Oct. 2, 2013. Unfortunately, Jurco’s shot from the bottom of the slot was gloved by Johnson keeping it a one-goal game heading into the second intermission.
DETROIT 1, BUFFALO 0
SCORING: 1. DET, Richards (Datsyuk, Helm) 4:01.
PENALTIES: 1. BUF, Weber PS (slashing) 14:56; 2. DET, Tatar (holding) 18:29.
SHOTS: Detroit 13 (19), Buffalo 9 (18).
The Wings have given up third-period leads at an alarming rate this season.
In the last 14 games, Detroit has forfeited eight leads late and 11 already this season.
Trailing by one, the Sabres didn’t quit, scoring twice in a 61-second span to go from one down to one up to extinguish the Wings’ point streak at 13-straight games.
Off a face off deep in the Wings’ zone, the Sabres kept possession where Reinhart’s shot from tipped by O’Reilly for his team-leading 11th goal. A minute later the Sabres had their first lead when Johan Larsson fired a shot from the slot that beat Mrazek. It was Larsson’s first goal of the season.
Earlier in the period, Smith prevented Larsson from getting a shot off into an empty net. The Sabres’ forward was camped to the left of Mrazek and with the Wings’ goalie unable to get into position to make a save following a rebound, Smith used his stick to tie up Larsson.
Detroit had their chances to extend their lead. Once again, Helm’s speed caused problems for the Sabres early in the third. Fighting through a check as he crossed the near blue line, he was slashed by O’Reilly drawing a two-minute minor and giving Detroit just its second power play of the night.
However, the Wings did not capitalize on their chance opening the door for the Sabres’ comeback.
The Wings pulled Mazrek with 2:05 left in the period. Gustav Nyquist had a great chance to extended their point streak, but Johnson made an outstanding diving save on the Wings’ forward keeping the puck out of the net with less than half a minutes in regulation.
BUFFALO 2, DETROIT 1
SCORING: 1. BUF, O’Reilly (Reinhart, Ristalainen), 15:46; 2. BUF, Larsson (Weber) 16:47.
PENALTIES: 1. BUF, O’Reilly (slashing) 6:24.
SHOTS: Detroit 13 (32), Buffalo 12 (30).