Detroit — The Buffalo Sabres proved to be the perfect tonic for the slumping Red Wings.
The Wings ended a four-game winless streak with a convincing 4-0 victory over the lowly Sabres, goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic stopping 22 shots for his first shutout as a Red Wing.
Tyler Bertuzzi and Robby Fabbri had first-period power-play goals, Lucas Raymond ended a 14-game goal-scoring drought in the third period, and Michael Rasmussen capped the scoring for the Wings (17-17-5), who moved back to .500.
“This was a big win, especially at home after getting shut out the last game,” said Bertuzzi, who added two assists. “We showed up and the guys had a real good game.”
The Wings also dominated the specialty-teams battle with the Bertuzzi and Fabbri power-play goals, while killing all five power plays for the Sabres (11-20-6).
The power play has struggled, but now has scored in three of the last four games.
“It (power play) was great, we made some good little plays and we supported each other all over the ice,” Bertuzzi said. “We played pretty good. It was a weird game, not much five-on-five, a lot of penalties, but we played good.”
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill would like the power-play unit to build off these recent successes.
“Hopefully that just continues to build confidence,” Blashill said. “Confidence matters, and special teams was a huge factor tonight. The power play gave us the lead early, and we played a very good first period, then we got in trouble in the second but the PK did an excellent job not giving them momentum.”
The Wings killed three consecutive Buffalo power plays the first half of the second period, while clinging to a 2-0 lead.
Then, after Raymond scored early in the third period, the Wings killed another Sabres’ power play as Rasmussen came out of the box and scored on a breakaway, cementing the victory.
“The power play was good and penalty kill was better,” Bertuzzi said. “The kills down the stretch is what you need to do the best. Our guys did a great job, those kills were huge.”
Bertuzzi opened the scoring with his team-leading 18th goal. Dylan Larkin drove to the net, goaltender Aaron Dell made the save, but the rebound went to Bertuzzi standing alone at the post, and Betuzzi made it 1-0 at 7:35.
Fabbri made it 2-0 with his 10th goal, with the Wings enjoying a four-minute power play for Cody’s Eakin’s double-minor for high sticking. With the power play winding down, Fabbri fired a loose puck into an open net at 19:09 off a feed from Bertuzzi.
After a rather listless game Thursday in the 3-0 loss to Winnipeg (returning from a West Coast trip), the Red Wings looked refreshed and energized after getting all of Friday off.
“The guys played like they had way more juice,” Blashill said. “They felt it was a needed day off and we wound up making the decision to do it and it paid off. Guys came out tons more energy.”
Raymond extended the Wings lead with his first goal since Dec. 1. Dylan Larkin carried the puck down the wing and fed Raymond driving to the net, and Raymond knocked the puck past Dell (Raymond’s 11th goal) just 13 seconds into the third period.
Blashill was glad to see Raymond end the drought, but felt Raymond has been playing well enough that the goals would eventually come.
“He is playing good hockey and he’s mentally tough enough to stay focused and just play,” Blashill said. “Everybody feels good when they score, but he’s been getting chances and he’s produced. It’s not like he hasn’t helped us win games. He’s done all that stuff.”
Blashill flipped Bertuzzi onto the Pius Suter and Fabbri line, while moving Vladislav Namestnikov alongside Larkin and Raymond. For one game, it looked like a more balanced lineup for the Wings.
“It’s critical to have balance,” Blashill said. “You look at it like you feel you have two real dangerous offensive lines. Bert with that line allows you to have two lines, two good scoring lines and other lines can contribute in other ways, as well.”