Detroit Red Wings slice through Buffalo Sabres, 4-0, for first shutout of 2021-22

Detroit Free Press

Well-rested, the Detroit Red Wings put on a well-executed show Saturday night before a lively crowd at Little Caesars Arena.

They started strong against the Buffalo Sabres, converted on power plays, limited the chances against goalie Alex Nedeljkovic and were rewarded with a 4-0 victory that boosted their home record to 13-6-2.

It was precisely the performance the Wings (17-17-5) needed after going winless over their previous four games (including the previous one at home). Their special teams clicked, and Nedeljkovic made 22 saves to earn his first shutout as a Wings. It was the Wings’ first shutout since May 1 of last season.

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Tyler Bertuzzi scored his 18th goal midway through the first period, and Robby Fabbri followed up with a score in the last minutes of the first. Rookie Lucas Raymond added to the celebrations in the opening minute of the third period. Dylan Larkin, the Wings’ All-Star representative, set up Bertuzzi and Raymond. Michael Rasmussen scored, but he also landed in the penalty box three times. Raymond also had an assist, and Bertuzzi added two assists.

The Wings improved to 3-0 against the Sabres, who they play again Monday afternoon in Buffalo.

Switch up

The Wings have tried multiple candidates as they search for the right fit on the second line next to Pius Suter and Fabbri, rotating through Filip Zadina, Rasmussen and Givani Smith. On Saturday, it came at the cost of pulling Bertuzzi off the first line, and promoting Vladislav Namestnikov to playing with Larkin and Raymond on the top line. Bertuzzi helped spark the line early with a good offensive shift, helping maintain control of the puck. The Wings may not have to search for a fit much longer, as Jakub Vrana is expected to join the team in February after being sidelined since camp with a shoulder injury.

Power up

The Wings needed a boost of confidence overall, but especially so on their power play after blowing a rare 6-on-3 advantage Thursday against the Jets. A man advantage presented itself at 7:35 when Fabbri drew a penalty on Colin Miller, and Bertuzzi made good at 8:57 in typical fashion. Bertuzzi was by the right post, in position to tap in Larkin’s setup. The Wings drew consecutive power plays at 15:25 of the first period when Cody Eakin received a double-minor for high-sticking Sam Gagner. It took all but 16 seconds of the advantage, but the Wings got there. Raymond sent the puck towards the net, where Bertuzzi directed it to Fabbri, who finished the play.

Step up

The penalty killers got quite a workout, too, forced to negate successive penalties to Dylan Larkin (tripping), the team for too many men, and to Rasmussen (also tripping) within the first 12 minutes of the second period. Suter and Gagner logged more than four minutes in that stretch, and defensemen Marc Staal, Moritz Seider and Danny DeKeyser had more than three minutes as the Wings held the Sabres’ power play to just three shots on net in six minutes.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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