Tatar goal lifts Red Wings past Sabres
DETROIT — Call them dirty goals, greasy goals, even garbage goals, they are the types of tallies that haven’t been a part of the Detroit Red Wings’ game plan in recent years.
That situation, though, appears to be changing.
The Wings scratched and clawed their way to a 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night, and they did so by doing the sorts of things they aren’t known for as a team — throwing pucks to the net, gaining a net-front presence and cashing in on second-chance scoring opportunities.
These are the sorts of tactics coach Jeff Blashill has been demanding of his team for some time, and it finally looks like they are buying into what he’s selling.
“No question, it’s how you score in this league for the most part,” Blashill said. “You have to score dirty. It’s just the reality of the league. I think we’ve done a way better job of having bodies at the net, throwing pucks at the net from the side, making sure we’re shooting, having a shot-first mentality when you can.
“It doesn’t mean you can’t make plays, but let’s have a shot-first mentality. I think we’ve done a good job creating chaos.”
Luke Glendening, Tomas Tatar and Dylan Larkin scored for the Wings (10-8-2), who snapped a four-game losing streak against Buffalo. Ryan O’Reilly replied for the Sabres (5-10-4), who are winless in four games (0-2-2).
“We are embarrassed by this,” O’Reilly said. “We have to play with a much better effort than we showed tonight.”
All of Detroit’s goals arrived in similar fashion, via hard work and determination.
“Especially in a game like this, those are the goals you’re probably going to get,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We got them here tonight and that was good.”
Sabres goalie Robin Lehner, who shut out the Red Wings 1-0 on Oct. 24, looked to have Detroit’s number again. Glendending finally solved him on the Red Wings’ 21st shot of the night, ending Lehner’s shutout sequence against Detroit at 126:11.
Glendening won a puck battle with Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe behind the Buffalo net, chipping it across to Darren Helm. Helm brought the puck out from back of the net and fed a cross-crease pass to Glendening.
Lehner (30 saves) got a pad on Glendening’s shot, but he fired the rebound past Lehner.
“We were sticking with the program,” Glendening said. “And we had a good third in response to their goal. We came back with two.
“That’s what you need to do.”
The Sabres tied it 5:50 into the third period. Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard (19 saves) stopped Victor Antipin’s shot, but the rebound when right to O’Reilly, who snapped the puck into the net.
Tatar’s fifth of the season, just 2:46 after O’Reilly’s goal, proved to be the game winner.
With Wings forward Justin Abdelkader screening Lehner, Tatar’s long wrist shot from just inside the blue line banked off the top of Lehner’s pad and into the net.
“I don’t know who stands in front, I’m guessing it was Abby,” Tatar said. “Big thanks. (Lehner) probably didn’t see much and I was fortunate to get the puck in.”
Larkin added an insurance goal with 4:06 left in regulation. Red Wings defenseman Xavier Ouellet shot from an odd angle and Larkin slammed the rebound past Lehner.
“That was great work by my linemates,” Larkin said. “Tats (Tatar) was right there in front. If he’s not there, that puck doesn’t bounce there and if X doesn’t shoot the puck it doesn’t get to me.”
Sabres coach Phil Housley echoed O’Reilly’s sentiments and was displeased by his team’s performance.
“We didn’t have any discipline and we didn’t have any effort,” Housley said. “We got outworked, outplayed and outhustled.
“We were slow tonight, and that’s not acceptable.”
NOTES: Red Wings D Trevor Daley, who left Wednesday’s game against Calgary with an upper-body injury, was back in the lineup. ... D Brian Lashoff, called up from AHL Grand Rapids, made his season debut for the Red Wings. ... D/RW Luke Witkowski served the first of a 10-game NHL suspension for returning to the ice to rejoin a fight after he was removed from the game by officials. ... RW Martin Frk (groin) and D Danny DeKeyser (ankle) were out with injuries. ... LW David Booth was a healthy scratch. ... D Casey Nelson and LW Matt Moulson were healthy scratches for the Sabres. ... The Sabres list six players on injured reserve — D Matt Tennyson, Taylor Fedun, Rasmus Ristolainen and Zach Bogosian, LW Evan Rodrigues and C Jacob Josefson. ... Dean Morton, one of two NHL referees assigned to the game, played one game for the Red Wings in 1989-90 and scored a goal. He’s the only player to do that in the history of the franchise. ... Sabres C Kyle Criscuolo, who made his NHL debut, won a Calder Cup title last season with Detroit’s Grand Rapids farm club.