Wings beat Sabres in Eastern Conference debut
DETROIT -- Jimmy Howard said that aside from winning the Stanley Cup, one of his main goals this season is making the U.S. Olympic Team, which will compete in Sochi, Russia, in February during the Winter Olympics.
Well, the Detroit Red Wings goaltender beat one of his competitors for one of three positions on the U.S. team Wednesday night.
Howard made 19 saves and Detroit held on for a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres and goaltender Ryan Miller.
Miller was the goalie for the silver-medal-winning U.S. team in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Both Miller and Howard attended the Team USA 2014 Olympic orientation camp in late August.
Howard’s shutout attempt was thwarted by Zemgus Girgensons first career goal, in his first NHL game, with 7:24 left. It was the result of Howard’s attempted clearing pass around the boards that was deflected into the slot by Bryan Flynn to Girgensons, who put in a backhander.
“It was unfortunate that it hit him and ended right on the guy’s stick,” Howard said. “My bad. It was just a bad bounce.”
Miller made 32 saves, giving up both goals during a 36-second span of the first period.
Mikael Samuelsson opened the scoring with 7:55 left in the opening period when he tipped a pass from Cory Emmerton that was inches off the ice, knocking it over Miller’s shoulder from the bottom of the right circle.
With 7:19 remaining in the first, Pavel Datsyuk scored on backhand shot from between the hash marks as he skated from left to right across the crease.
“They put the puck in the net on a couple of nice plays,” Miller said. “The one out of the air was pretty ... it was pretty. You’d think it was prettier if it didn’t happen to you. And Datsyuk got some separation.”
Samuelsson talked about the Red Wings’ fast start.
“When you start off at home, you always want the first goal and we got two,” he said. “After that, we slowed down.”
The Sabres pulled Miller for the extra attacker with 1:10 left but the Red Wings were able to hold on for the win.
“We hung around long enough and got one, so we were still in it at the end, but obviously our power play didn’t help us,” Buffalo coach Ron Rolston said.
The Red Wings killed off all seven Buffalo power plays, including a 1:31 two-man disadvantage in the first period and a 51 second 5-on-3 opportunity late in the second period.
“I didn’t like killing as much as we did with two long 5-on-3s,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
But Howard appreciated his teammates’ efforts.
“They did a great job tonight. On both 5-on-3s, they didn’t really give them much,” the Detroit goalie said. “The way guys were blocking shots there in the first -- Millsie (Drew Miller) came up with a big one, Kronner (defenseman Niklas Kronwall), Big E (defenseman Jonathan Ericsson). It’s fun to see when you’re a goalie.”
An apparent Detroit power-play goal with 8:35 left in the second period was waved off and Daniel Cleary received a goaltender-interference penalty.
“If I’d have been able to hold my ground, it doesn’t go in. I liked the call,” Miller said.
During the penalty kill, Thomas Vanek pulled down Emmerton on a breakaway, and Emmerton was awarded a penalty shot with 7:41 remaining in the middle period. Miller stopped Emmerton on the attempt.
NOTES: Detroit made its Eastern Conference debut against one of its new Atlantic Division rivals, and Red Wings’ free agent acquisitions Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss played their first regular-season game with their new team. ... Ryan Miller and Detroit F Drew Miller are brothers. They grew up in Lansing, Mich., and played at Michigan State. ... Buffalo coach Ron Rolston is a native of Fenton, Mich., which is about 45 mile north of Detroit. ... The Red Wings begin the season with C Darren Helm (back) and RW Patrick Eaves (ankle, knee) on the long-term injured reserve list and F Jordan Tootoo (shoulder) and G Jonas Gustavsson (groin) on the short-term IR. ... Sabres LW Ville Leino is a former Red Wing. ... Buffalo C Kevin Porter was born in Detroit and played at the University of Michigan.