BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)—Mired in their worst slump in nearly 20 years, the Detroit Red Wings were determined to end the misery.
It may have been only the second win the past 12 games (2-8-2) for the Red Wings, but it felt like a playoff victory for a struggling team that came in enduring its worst stretch since going 0-9-3 from Oct. 21-Nov. 16, 1989.
“We were waiting for a game like this,” Hasek said. “We weren’t playing bad, we just couldn’t score the goals. Today, we finally scored a few goals and played well defensively. Overall, I think Buffalo didn’t have too many chances.”
That they didn’t, especially early on when the Red Wings took 18 shots on net while playing nearly most of the first period in the Sabres’ zone.
“We talked a lot about just getting to the net and shooting the puck,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We got off to a good start, and had the puck a lot.”
What made the win even that much sweeter for the Red Wings was the absence of Henrik Zetterberg from the scoresheet. It didn’t matter that Detroit’s leading scorer didn’t figure in on any of the scoring, with the grinding line of Drake, Maltby and Kris Draper picking up with two goals and an assist.
“We need to contribute more to help out,” said Maltby, who scored for the first time since Oct. 26. “We’ve been finding ways to lose games, and we weren’t getting the job done. Tonight, we got the lead and finished strong.”
Hasek, making his second straight start after being sidelined for nearly three weeks with a hip injury, improved to 5-1-2 in nine career games against the Sabres, the team he developed into a star for from 1992-2001.
Rookie Patrick Kaleta and Jason Pominville scored for the slumping Sabres, who lost for the fourth time in five games (1-3-1). Buffalo continues to be in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind eighth-place Philadelphia.
Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller finished with 35 saves.
“We have to get better,” he said. “There’s no excuses. Every last guy has to be smarter and better.”
Kaleta opened the scoring just under three minutes in when he snuck a wrist shot from the slot that got past Hasek.
But the Red Wings gained control with three unanswered goals that bridged the first and second periods, with Drake’s third of the year at 11:56 of the first sparking the spurt.
Filppula made it 2-1 with a power-play goal five minutes into the second, converting a nifty tic-tac-toe passing play with Jiri Hudler and Franzen. It was Filppula’s 18th of the season, and second in three games.
Franzen then pushed Detroit’s lead to 3-1 just over nine minutes later with his 13th.
Pominville’s power-play goal—his 20th overall—3:12 into the third made it 3-2. Maltby capped the scoring with his fourth with 4:08 remaining in regulation.
“We didn’t play the way we wanted to,” Pominville said. “As the game went on we got better, but against a team like Detroit, the best team in the league, it was too late.”
Buffalo C Jochen Hecht missed his fifth game because of a pulled leg muscle/groin injury. … Detroit starts a season-high five-game homestand on Wednesday against St. Louis. … Pominville was named Buffalo’s captain for the month of March. … Miller, a Michigan native, made his 19th consecutive start. … It was the first time Detroit played in Buffalo since Dec. 2003.