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Special teams power Buffalo in final game at The Joe

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

DETROIT - Two-for-two on the power play. Four-for-four on the penalty kill. That's what it took for the Buffalo Sabres to leave Joe Louis Arena for the last time with a victory. 

In their last game ever at The Joe, the Sabres received power-play goals from Jack Eichel and Matt Moulson to beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Monday.

Video: Eichel, Lehner lead Sabres past Wings, 2-1

Robin Lehner anchored the penalty kill, making 34 saves, including six while shorthanded, to reach the 20-win plateau for the first time in his career. 

The result also marks the first time the Sabres have won consecutive games at Joe Louis Arena since they won each of their first five games there from Feb. 16, 1980 to Dec. 12, 1981. Now they'll have to start a new streak at Little Caesars Arena next season as The Joe is closing its doors when the season comes to an end.

After Buffalo took a 2-0 lead midway through the second, the Red Wings upped the ante and controlled play for a good chunk of the rest of the game.

"We were composed for the rest of that period, the last six, seven minutes, whatever it was," Lehner said. "They came out in the third and they obviously were going to have a push. They have good players on that team and I think we did a good job defensively, helping me out for rebounds and seeing the puck."

The Sabres power play has been great all year and both of their units proved to be difference makers Monday night. They entered the night second in the NHL behind Toronto, but the perfect performance against Detroit will put them at 24.0 percent on the season and back on top.

"I thought we played a real good first period - jumped on them, had some opportunities. But it was the power play that cashed in to give us the lead and again in the second period," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "I thought they probably played their stretch of hockey in the first 10 minutes of the second, but we got the power-play opportunity, got up 2-0 and the kill had to come up a number of times, and especially in the third period to solidify the win."

Buffalo killed off two penalties in the third, including one late to secure the two points.

"The penalty kill was great today. I think I ended up having two or three shots, maybe, on four penalties," Lehner said. "From Ryan [O'Reilly] winning good faceoffs to everyone getting good clears, and getting it down the ice and a good forecheck up ice, I think it was a great job today."

Eichel also saw some time on the penalty kill and was on the ice at the end of the game as the Red Wings pressured with the extra attacker.

"It's something I obviously want to build in my game, become a more complete player," he said. "It's more opportunity on the ice, it gets you into the game and I'd like to become a regular on our penalty kill. I think I can bring a lot to it so I'm just trying to prove to the coaches that I belong on the penalty kill and that you can trust me."


Scoring summary 

Eichel netted his 21st goal of the season - and team-leading 50th point in his 52nd game - to open the scoring with 9:30 remaining in the first period. On the power play, Eichel one-timed a pass from O'Reilly from the left faceoff circle and beat Mrazek with some help from a screen by Sam Reinhart in front. 

Video: BUF@DET: Eichel tallies PPG with wicked one-timer

Eichel now has seven points (4+3) in eight career games against Detroit.

With a secondary assist on the goal, Rasmus Ristolainen recorded his seventh career assist at Joe Louis Arena. Those seven points tie him with Danny Gare and Pierre Turgeon for fifth in franchise scoring at The Joe. Gilbert Perreault is the Sabres' all-time leading scorer at Joe Louis Arena with 14 points (8+6) in 10 games. 

Video: BUF@DET: Moulson backhands Ennis' dish for PPG

Buffalo struck again on the power play with a power-play goal from Matt Moulson 8:59 into the second. He scored his 11th power-play goal of the season, tying for seventh-most in the NHL and most by a Sabre since 2010-11 (Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford).

Tomas Tatar made it 2-1 when he redirected in a feed from Mike Green with 7:07 to go in the middle frame. However, the Sabres closed the door the rest of the way.


A strong debut

Defenseman Brady Austin made his NHL debut, getting engaged right from his first shift when he laid a hit on Justin Abdelkader. One of only four seventh-round picks in the 2012 NHL Draft to dress in an NHL game, Austin played 15:37 and registered three shots on goal. 

"I thought he played real well, moved the puck up and north, out of trouble a number of times for our guys," Bylsma said. "It was a credit to Brady. He was good in the game."

Check back Tuesday morning for Brian Duff's video recap which will have more on Austin's first game.


Up next

It's another back-to-back set as the Sabres host Pittsburgh on Tuesday at KeyBank Center. The Tops Game Night pregame show kicks off at 6:30 p.m. on MSG.  

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