BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After missing most of October with a groin injury, Detroit Red Wings center Darren Helm needed a little time to get back to full speed.
Suffice to say he found his stride.
Helm scored for the fourth time in five games, left winger Johan Franzen tallied the go-ahead goal with less than nine minutes to go, and backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson improved to 5-0-1 as the Red Wings downed the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 at First Niagara Center on Sunday.
Helm had just 33 goals in 255 career games before his recent hot streak. With the Wings trailing after one period, he wheeled a shot past Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller just 30 seconds into the second period.
The Wings got a welcome surprise when forward Daniel Alfredsson was back in the lineup. He missed five games with a groin injury but returned in time to record the primary assist on Helm's tally and add an empty-net goal with 48.2 seconds remaining.
Franzen netted what proved to be the winner with a power-play goal at 11:43 of the third when his shot from the left of Miller caromed into the net. Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwell earned the assists on Franzen's sixth goal of the year and his fourth in six games.
The Sabres got on the board first when Cody Hodgson wrapped the puck around Gustavsson, tucking it past the netminder at 7:47 of the first period. It was Hodgson's eighth goal of the season, and it put the Sabres in an unfamiliar place, marking just the second time all season they took the lead into the first intermission.
Buffalo had a chance to take the lead in the second when Steve Ott was hooked from behind on a clear-cut breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot. However, Ott tried the same move on Gustavsson that he did on the breakaway, shifting to his backhand after a deke, and the goalie stopped the puck with his left pad.
With an 0-2-4 record in his last half-dozen starts, Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard got the evening off and Gustavsson was in net for the Wings, who came in with just one win in their last nine games. Gustavsson finished with 21 saves.
Miller stopped 31 shots.
Buffalo (5-19-1) has two days before welcoming the Montreal Canadiens to town on Wednesday, while Detroit (11-7-7) will return home to face the Boston Bruins on Wednesday.
NOTES: After taking an elbow to the head during Saturday's loss to the Senators in Ottawa, Detroit C Pavel Datsyuk did not make the trip to Buffalo. Team officials were not ready to say he suffered a concussion, but they were following steps as if he did. He will be evaluated Tuesday. The league decided Sunday that D Jared Cowen, who hit Datsyuk, would not be disciplined. There was no penalty on the play. ... Detroit RW Todd Bertuzzi missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Buffalo C Cody McCormick was placed on injured reserve after suffering an upper-body injury against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. He is expected to miss about a week. ... The Sabres recalled D Alexander Sulzer from AHL Rochester, and he was paired with D Christian Ehrhoff. It marked the beginning of Sulzer's second stint with Buffalo this year. ... After sitting Thursday as a healthy scratch, the first time he missed a game this year, Sabres D Mark Pysyk returned to the lineup.