DET-BUF 04:07:24

DETROIT -- Locked in a tight race for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, the Detroit Red Wings have repeatedly stressed they want to control what they can control during this final stretch.

That’s exactly what the Red Wings did on Sunday afternoon, riding a strong start to a critical 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at Little Caesars Arena.

“We’ve been staying in the battle,” Detroit head coach Derek Lalonde said. “That’s points in four of our last six games and victories in two of our last three. We’re slowly gobbling up some points and keeping ourselves in the fight.”

Goalie Alex Lyon made 37 saves for the Red Wings (38-31-8; 84 points), who jumped past the idle Pittsburgh Penguins (83 points) and Philadelphia Flyers (83 points) into the East’s final wild-card spot. The Washington Capitals (82 points) are set to host the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.

Netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 21 shots for Buffalo (37-36-5; 79 points), which went 1-2-0 against Detroit this season.

“It feels good to get a win,” said Raymond, who had a goal and an assist for his team-leading 19th multi-point game of the season. "Obviously maybe not our best game, but found a way to get it done. Al played great back in net. A big one.”

The Red Wings opened the scoring just 53 seconds into the game, as Lucas Raymond notched his 26th goal of the season. After intercepting a pass near center ice, Raymond skated into the high slot and ripped home a shot to make it 1-0.

“Raymond has been unbelievable,” Lalonde said. “The two years I’ve been here, you can just see the whole package building and now he’s driving us in these big games.”

Patrick Kane put the Red Wings ahead 2-0 just 3:31 later, splitting a pair of Sabres defensemen before poking the puck past Luukkonen’s right skate for his 19th goal of the season. Jeff Petry had the lone assist.

Padding the lead for Detroit, captain Dylan Larkin completed a tic-tac-toe passing sequence with Raymond and David Perron on the power play to make it 3-0 at 7:37 of the first period. With the goal, his team-leading 31st of the season, Larkin extended his point streak to four consecutive games.

Raymond also became the eighth Red Wings player age 22 or younger with 40 career multi-point games.

Fans returned to their feet roughly midway through the first period when Joe Veleno dropped the gloves with Buffalo’s Bowen Byram. It was Veleno’s first career NHL fight.

Tage Thompson cut the Sabres’ deficit to 3-1 at 13:16 of the first period with a power-play goal. He beat Lyon with a one-timer off a pass from Zach Benson.

With 4:11 remaining in the first period, Jeff Petry and Buffalo’s Dylan Cozens dropped the gloves.

The Red Wings and Sabres combined for 42 shots – 14 by Detroit – over a scoreless final 40 minutes.

“When you get a good start like that, obviously you want to reward the guys,” Lyon said. “It gives you confidence too. Got to give a lot of credit to the guys. I thought that we did a good job of locking it down. I think they had some opportunities, but for the most part we did a good job of getting it deep and making them go 200 feet. That’s what you got to do when you have the lead – play from the inside out and protect the house. I thought for the most part we were diligent with that.”

Lalonde said he is eager to watch how his players handle more of these big moments.

“This is obviously a high,” Lalonde said. “I know Washington plays tonight, but we’re going to leave the rink above the playoff line with five games left. This would have been a dream scenario for us going into this season and now we’re here. How are we going to handle it on Tuesday?”

NEXT UP: The Red Wings will host the Capitals at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday night, a game with significant playoff implications for both clubs.

Meijer Postgame Comments | BUF vs. DET | 04/07/24


Lalonde on the Sabres

“That’s a really good team. They’ve been beating a lot of quality opponents of late. They’re a tough matchup, high skill and tough to play against because they’re very aggressive offensively. So to hold them to zero goals 5-on-5 is a huge positive. Obviously Alex is a big part of that.”

Lalonde on Seider’s shot-blocking ability

“He’s willing, physical. No one eats pucks like him. Everyone talks about his growth, I don’t think people talk about his willingness to play hard and eat pucks.”

Lalonde on the key to Detroit’s strong first period

“I’ve liked our energy. I liked our game on a whole against the (New York) Rangers. I just think it’s managing your emotions, staying in the fight and not getting too high, too low. It’s not easy to do. As valuable as these games are for the moment of the game, it’s the approach around the games.”

Lalonde on Lyon’s afternoon

“Today was exceptional. That was a goalie win. I know we shut them out 5-on-5, but that’s a high-end offensive team. We blocked shots and did some good things around that hard-scoring area, but they had their looks. That was a really, really strong performance by him. We needed it.”

Lyon on if the Red Wings are getting more comfortable playing high-stakes games

“For sure. It’s always a learning experience. I think a lot of guys in our room have played in a lot of big games. I think it’s muscle memory. It’s brain memory and the way you’re thinking and feeling. I think the more you expose yourself to it, it’s like anything, you get better at it.”

Raymond on what he feels has been key to his strides this season

"My body feels good. I think that's a big difference, the way my body feels this time of the year compared to previous years. I'm feeling good. These are fun games to play and everyone is excited for what's to come."