DETROIT -- It was a tale of two teams going in different directions Friday night at Little Caesars Arena as the Buffalo Sabres dealt the Red Wings their seventh consecutive defeat, blanking Detroit, 2-0.
The Wings suffered their first shutout of the season. They were last shut out on Dec, 2, 2018, 2-0 by Colorado, also at Little Caesars Arena. It was the Red Wings' only shutout last season.
The Sabres, who were playing the second of back-to-back games after dropping a 6-2 decision at the New York Rangers on Thursday night, won for the fourth time in their last five games.
Detroit had several chances and probably deserved a better fate, but Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark continued his stellar play versus the Red Wings.
Entering the game, Ullmark's career mark against the Wings was 3-0-2 with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage.
On Friday, he notched his first career shutout versus Detroit, making 41 saves as he turned aside everything the Wings shot his way, including many high quality scoring chances.
Jimmy Howard (1-5, 3.59 GAA, .901 Sv%) took the loss for the Red Wings.
Jake McCabe and Sam Reinhart (power play) were Buffalo's goal scorers.
Up next, Detroit (3-8-0) will play the second contest of a three-game home stand, entertaining the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues Sunday afternoon (5 p.m. face-off).
Buffalo (9-2-1) returns to action Monday night, hosting the Arizona Coyotes.
1. Dylan Larkin: On most nights after a Red Wings game, Larkin is one of the players who addresses the media. He's straightforward, putting the blame squarely on his shoulders after a loss and heaping praise on his teammates after a win; very rarely does he pump his own tires. Over the last five games, Larkin has been held pointless and during the Wings' current seven-game slide, he has registered one point, a goal on Oct. 15 at the 30-second mark of the first period in a 5-1 defeat at Vancouver. Yet through it all, Larkin has maintained his poise as the Wings have tinkered with his line and his power-play unit to try to generate more offense. On Friday versus the Sabres, Larkin was matched up against Buffalo's Jack Eichel and though Eichel assisted on both Sabres goals (one on the power play), he more than held his own against his former USNTDP teammate. Larkin led all Detroit forwards in ice time, clocking in at 21:59, was minus-1, fired eight shots on goal and won 79 percent of his face-offs, going 19-of-24 from the dot.
Quotable: "We played solid, they're a top team. We started well but I think the negative is we have to score. This stretch we haven't scored enough. Myself, I haven't been good enough offensively or defensively. You want to point fingers, point it right at me. I have to be way better for this team and carry the load up front and put the puck in the net. We need a win bad. We need to get our confidence back as a team. We've played good, we haven't played good consistently. We just need to get two points and grind out a win and pick up from there. We need it in the worst way and luckily, in November, there's a game every other day so we're going to have chances and we're going to have to figure this out pretty quick or else it's going to get ugly." - Larkin
Quotable II: "Larks, he was excellent tonight, and I mean excellent. He was the best player on the ice in my opinion, had tons of chances, he was excellent. He went head to head against Eichel. I think he was damn near 100 percent on face-offs. He was excellent tonight. They didn't go in, I get it, but if he keeps playing like that … he has, actually. He's produced lots of points. He hasn't scored as much as he's wanted to but he's produced. It's a growth process for him. I don't want to use the word proud, sounds like he's my kid, which he's not, but I was really proud of the way he came out and played tonight. He caught some flack this morning in the meeting, you know his line keeps getting switched around a little bit. We changed the power plays up, there's a lot of things … and I thought he came out tonight and played excellent. It's hard, he's big-time competitive, it's hard, grinding away and you're not getting results, but as we've talked about tons all you can do is learn and move on and he has to do it at 23 years old as (being) perceived as leading the franchise, he has to stand up in front of everybody every night and that's a hard thing, but he's grown and what makes Dylan special is he has great self-recognition, so he knows when he has to make an adjustment, his perception, the way he looks at things, he knows it." - Jeff Blashill
2. Jimmy Howard: As the Red Wings continue to be in a collective goal-scoring drought, Howard and his netminding partner Jonathan Bernier must be perfect in net to keep the Wings close during games. Against the soaring Sabres, Howard surrendered only two goals, but his solid effort was not enough. He was screened on McCabe's goal and Reinhart's power-play tally was a tap-in, as he was left all alone off to the right side of a wide open net. While the Wings work things out offensively, the pressure will only mount on their veteran goaltenders, who for their part, have kept them in most games this season.
Quotable: "It hasn't been pretty. At least tonight was a lot better of a defensive effort out there. Even though they got one early in the third, we didn't crumble. So that's a good sign. It's been everything. We need better goaltending. We need playing in the defensive zone better. When we have our opportunities, we need to score. It's as simple as that. We can't just rely on certain guys up front to put the puck in the net. We need to do it by committee. Right now that's not happening for us. We (also) have to steal one. Whoever's in net has to do to the best of their capabilities of stealing a game for the guys, because we desperately need two points." - Howard
Quotable II: "We talked this morning about making sure, getting back to being process-oriented, making sure we have great process. I thought we got away from that in Ottawa. I thought, sometimes you use the word desperate, but what happens a lot of times is you hope, you hope, you hope, and we gave up tons of chances in that game in Ottawa. Tonight, at first glance we gave up seven chances for the game and had 21. You play that game 10 times you're winning nine of them. If it hadn't been for the fact we've lost all these in a row, it would be easy to move on, but when you've lost a bunch in a row you got to have great mental toughness. I told our guys you keep playing these kind of games over and over and over, you're going to win a lot of games. You're putting yourselves in position to win. Do we have to score? A hundred percent. Is it OK, that's not what I'm saying. I'm going to judge us on process. The process here wasn't perfect by any stretch. I don't know what their record is, a lot of wins to little losses, and the chances were 21-7." - Blashill
3. Givani Smith: Twenty-one-year-old Givani Smith made his NHL debut against the Sabres on Friday and the 6-foot-2, 210-pound power forward didn't look out of place. Playing on Detroit's fourth line with Christoffer Ehn and Jacob de la Rose, Smith logged 10:57 of ice time, including 2:26 on the power play. He was even, had two shots on goal and doled out one hit. A big, rugged player with offensive ability, Smith is counted on to be a physical presence, and after the game, the Wings' players and staff liked what they saw from the youngster.
Quotable: "I thought he played great. I think he was really excited before the game obviously, his first NHL game. He brought a physicality and a size and speed to our game. I thought when he was out there he was really effective on the forecheck and made some nice plays and was a big body on the power play. He worked. So I thought he was a positive impact and I'm really happy for him." - Larkin
Quotable II: "He did a pretty good job. He's big guy, he goes to the net hard. He's a big presence on the power play, both from a net presence and from puck retrieval and I thought he did a pretty good job. It's hard to have a huge, huge impact, but I thought he did a pretty good job." - Blashill
Quotable III: "I thought I played pretty good. I did what I had to do out there. I did my job. I was physical. Obviously would have liked to have got the win but we've got Sunday to worry about that. We're not scoring a lot of goals right now. But as you see, there's a lot of momentum shifts. Towards the end of the game, guys are really trying to score goals and make the game really close and tie the game. So it's nice to be a part of. It's nice to be around high-end skill guys who come to work every day now." - Smith