Lehner, Sabres squeeze past Red Wings
DETROIT -- As the power play goes, so go the Buffalo Sabres.
It has been that way all season and it was that way again Monday night.
Jack Eichel and Matt Moulson scored power-play goals in the second period and that was enough to give the Sabres a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.
“Offensively, I think the power play is what makes us go,” Moulson said. “Hopefully, we can feed off that and make things go five-on-five.”
Only the Tampa Bay Lightning (54) have scored more times with the man advantage than the 52 power-play goals netted by the Sabres this season.
”We talk about winning the special teams battle every game and we did a good job of that,“ Moulson said. ”We know each other well out there.
“I think out power play coaches Woodsy (Bob Woods) and Wardo (Tom Ward), they put good plans in place.”
Eichel opened the scoring at 10:01 of the first period, taking a pass from Ryan O‘Reilly at the top of the left faceoff circle and snapping a long wrist shot past Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek, who made 28 saves.
At 8:59 of the second period, Moulson tried to tip a Tyler Ennis slap shot but only succeeded in stopping it. He quickly scooped a backhand shot past Mrazek to make it 2-0 with his team-leading 11th power-play goal of the season.
“We practice that play a lot,” Moulson said. “He was kind of looking at me, so I just got open and he made a great play.”
While the Sabres are second in the NHL on the power play (23.9 percent), they are second to last in the league on the penalty kill (76.8 percent) but were perfect Monday, successfully defending all four Detroit man-advantage situations.
One change in the penalty-killing unit saw Eichel get some time while the Sabres were short-handed.
”It’s something I want to build into my game and become a more complete player,“ Eichel said. ”It’s more opportunity on the ice and it gets you into the game.
”I’d like to become a regular on our penalty kill. I think I could bring lots to it with my speed, my stick, my hockey sense. I‘m trying to prove to the coaches that I belong on the penalty kill and they can trust me.
“It seems like I take a lot of heat for my defensive play and I don’t think it’s as bad as people say.”
Detroit coach Jeff Blashill wasn’t entirely unhappy with the efforts of his power play, which had scored four goals in the previous two games, both Detroit victories.
”It didn’t go in, to be dead honest with you,“ Blashill said. ”I don’t think it was any different in terms of execution. I thought there was certainly some execution.
“We created pucks around the cage a little bit. Maybe we weren’t as good at getting to some of those loose puck rebounds and there was some of those laying there. That’s where we’ve been real good lately.”
The Red Wings managed only five shots on goal for the first 20 minutes but seemed to find some life after Buffalo grabbed its 2-0 advantage, finishing the night with 35 shots against Sabres goalie Robin Lehner.
“They probably scouted us a little bit and took away what’s been working before,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said.
Detroit got on the board at 12:53 of the second period. Tomas Tatar continued to carry the hot hand. He scored his sixth goal in as many games when he snapped home Mike Green’s cross-crease pass behind Lehner.
”I think it’s natural that us being up 2-1, they’re going to have a push and us being a little cautious,“ Lehner said. ”This team throws a lot of shots on bad angles. They have sneaky players like that.
“They just kept throwing pucks at the net.”
Buffalo has won three straight from Detroit, the first time the Sabres have done that in a season since 1988-89. Before the three-game skid, the Red Wings were 31-3-1-2 against the Sabres.
”I remember when I was on the Islanders we always had (Detroit‘s) number for some odd reason,“ Moulson said. ”I think it probably goes in waves, teams beating teams consecutively.
“I don’t know how that comes about.”
NOTES: Buffalo C Jack Eichel has not gone consecutive games without a point since Jan. 28-Feb. 1. ... Buffalo D Rasmus Ristolainen has nine assists in his past eight games against the Red Wings, including one Monday. ... D Brady Austin made his NHL debut for the Sabres, finishing with an even rating in 15:37 of ice time. ... Detroit recalled F Tomas Nosek from AHL Grand Rapids on an emergency basis for the second time in three days and he played in place of Darren Helm, who is day to day with a lower-body injury. ... The Wings assigned F Mitch Callahan to Grand Rapids. ... Detroit scratched D Ryan Sproul (knee). ... Buffalo scratched D Cody Franson (undisclosed injury), D Taylor Fedun (foot), D Justin Falk (calf), D Dmitry Kulikov (upper body), F Nicolas Deslauriers and F Kyle Okposo (ribs).