EditorsNote: Corrects spelling of Viktor
Sabres carve out first home win
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres didn’t give their fans a show Tuesday night, but gave them their first home victory of the season.
Robin Lehner made 32 saves and Benoit Pouliot scored to lead the Sabres to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. The Sabres (3-5-2) have won back-to-back games for the first time this season.
“It’s great,” Buffalo coach Phil Housley said. “This team’s been through a lot. They’ve had some tough starts they’ve had to battle through, but they’ve now found a way to win a tight game, which is really important. I think that’s really going to help their confidence being in that situation again.”
It was Lehner’s first shutout of the season and sixth shutout of his career. The towering goaltender was strong between the pipes throughout, moving from side to side to cut down angles and keep pucks in front of him.
Lehner’s best save came with 3:32 remaining in the second period, when he stopped a shot from right winger Martin Frk from close range after a strong feed from Frans Nielsen. Lehner also held strong for several consecutive stops midway through the third period after some sustained pressure by the Red Wings.
The shutout was a positive development for a Sabres team that has struggled on defense throughout the first month of the season. Heading into Tuesday’s game, the Sabres were 28th in the NHL in goals against (3.89 goals per game).
“I thought we played solid defense and they helped me out, helped me out on rebounds,” Lehner said. “We played a solid, good game. We have things we need to get better at but from the defensive end it was real good.”
Pouliot’s goal came midway through the second period. The veteran quickly pounced on a rebound behind the Red Wings net and beat Howard with a wrap-around. It was Pouliot’s second goal in the past two games.
“I was trying to wrap it around, I didn’t really know where the goalie was,” Pouliot said. “I was trying to do it as quick as possible.”
Sabres defenseman Viktor Antipin picked up his first career NHL point on the goal. Antipin was signed by Buffalo as a free agent this offseason after playing five seasons in the KHL.
Jimmy Howard stopped 31 for Detroit (4-5-1), which has lost five games in a row (0-4-1). It was a much-improved effort from Detroit’s most disappointing performance of the season, a 4-1 loss to Vancouver on Sunday, but was lacking in offensive firepower.
“We came out way better,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “It was more like we played before the Vancouver game. It was a tight game. You want to see a little bit more offense than we created but I don’t think they had a lot of offense either. It was two teams that really needed the points and the game affected that.”
Detroit wasn’t claiming any moral victories after the defeat, however. Coach Jeff Blashill cited the need for more “dirty goals” with players needing to go harder to the net in order to create something when things aren’t going their way.
“We have to find a way to win,” Blashill said. “The one thing that’s not good enough is it’s not good enough to play OK and lose. I’ve talked about that a lot. We’ve done that now four out of five games we’ve played pretty good and lost. That’s not good enough. We need to find a way to win.”
One bright spot for the Red Wings was the play of Howard, who had his share of impressive stops. The goaltender came up big on a breakaway by Evander Kane with 4:23 remaining.
“It is what it is,” Howard said. “It’s five in a row and we all know that and we’ve got to nip this in the bud sooner rather than later. Tonight was better, I think it was a step in the right direction and we’ve got to keep going that way.”
NOTES: C Zemgus Girgensons (lower-body injury), D Zach Redmond and D Nathan Beaulieu (upper-body) were scratched for the Sabres. Girgensons missed his third game. Redmond was recalled from the AHL’s Rochester Americans on Saturday. ... LW David Booth, D Danny DeKeyser (lower-body) and C Andreas Athanasiou were scratched for the Red Wings. DeKeyser has missed the past seven games. ... Sabres C Jordan Nolan played his 300th career game. ... This was the first of four meetings. The next occurs Nov. 17 in Detroit.