DETROIT – Tage Thompson scored for the third straight game, but a string of three goals from the Detroit Red Wings within the first 7:37 of the contest proved insurmountable for the Buffalo Sabres in a 3-1 loss at Little Caesars Arena on Sunday.

The loss dropped the Sabres to five points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, now occupied by the Red Wings. Detroit has 84 points with five games remaining; Buffalo has four games remaining and can finish with a maximum of 87 points.

The Sabres entered the day with a chance to cut the standings deficit to as few as two points with a victory.

“It’s tough,” Sabres forward Alex Tuch said. “We’re going to keep pushing. You never know what’ll happen. I’ve seen crazier things, so we’re going to keep pushing. We’re going to move onto Dallas and we’re gonna play a good, hard game. We’re gonna focus on everything in our control in this locker room and move on.

“But it definitely sucks losing to the Red Wings. A team you’re chasing, a team we know we’ve gotten the better of this season before, too. We had the chance, I think, to impose our will on them, and we just didn’t keep it simple early, and we just got into a hole and couldn’t dig ourselves out.”

Thompson said the Sabres entered the game Sunday with the mindset to play a hard, direct game and focus on putting the puck low in the offensive zone to wear down the Red Wings defense. They did so on the opening shift, resulting in a scoring chance for Tuch from the slot.

It only took a couple of deviations from that game plan for the Red Wings to build their lead. Lucas Raymond intercepted a crossing pass in the neutral zone and buried a wrist shot to put the Red Wings on the board 53 second into the contest. A second neutral-zone turnover – this time a pass sent in Zach Benson’s direction while Benson was heading to the bench to change – paved the way for a Patrick Kane goal less than four minutes later.

Raymond later delivered a one-touch pass to set up a Dylan Larkin one-timer on Detroit’s first power play, and suddenly the Sabres were in a 3-0 hole.

“Just trying to make too many cute plays,” Thompson said. “We came in, we talked about (how) we wanted to play a direct, hard game, make their D turn around and go get the puck. I thought when we did that, that’s when we had our O-zone (time).

“I thought when they got their offense it was us trying to force stuff through the middle in the neutral zone and them turning around the other way, going in on an odd-man rush. So, self-inflicted wounds killed us tonight.”

Thompson scored a power-play goal to put the Sabres on the board before the end of the first period. They controlled much of the play from there, finishing with lopsided advantages in shots (38-24) and shot attempts (82-49). The line of Thompson, Tuch, and JJ Peterka alone combined for 12 shots and 28 attempts.

“You see games like that where pucks just bounce in for you,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “We put the pucks to the net, obviously. There were lots of pucks that I don’t think the goaltender saw that hit him. You’ve got to just keep putting pucks to the net like we did. (We) had some good chances.”

Red Wings goaltender Alex Lyon made 37 saves, including a pad stop on a rebound attempt by Tuch with 1:16 to go while the Sabres had goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen pulled for an extra attacker.

“I really just think we were missing those second-chance opportunities,” Tuch said. “At the end there, 6-on-5, I buried one into his pad with some room there on the far side. Just things like that. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.”

Here’s more from the game in Detroit.

1. Sabres defensemen Jacob Bryson and Owen Power both left the game with injuries. Bryson was hit in the face with a stick late in the second period and did not return. Power was hit in the face by a David Perron shot and missed the final 6:08 of the contest.

“Both will be evaluated and both in OK shape, I guess, right now,” Granato said. “But as far as the extent of things, we’ll know more tomorrow."

2. Emotions ran high as the Sabres and Red Wings met for the fourth time this season and the third time in less than a month. Bowen Byram fought Joe Veleno at the 9:31 mark of the first period, then Dylan Cozens fought Jeff Petry less than seven minutes later.

“Those are two competitive guys,” Granato said of Byram and Cozens. “I liked that competitive response, obviously.”

3. Thompson buried a one-timer from the right circle to extend his goal-scoring streak to three games. Benson set up the play to earn his fifth assist in that same span.

Up next

The road trip concludes Tuesday in Dallas. Pregame coverage on MSG/MSG+ begins at 7:30 p.m. with puck drop scheduled for 8. Radio coverage can be found on WGR 550.