BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Detroit Red Wings’ final meeting of the season with the Buffalo Sabres mirrored the slog of the winter storm but ended with a celebration.
It took a patient performance before the Wings had reason to rejoice during Monday’s matinee at KeyBank Center, where a shorthanded goal sparked a rally. Dylan Larkin scored at 2:07 of overtime to secure a 3-2 victory and a 4-0 sweep of the Sabres.
“It was very satisfying,” Larkin said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. We played them Saturday at home and it was a great crowd at home. We come here and it’s a snowstorm.”
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The victory improved the Wings (18-17-5) to 5-11-3 on the road.
There were swathes of empty sections when the game began, while outside plows battled a snowstorm that had battered Buffalo since Sunday. The sparse home crowd got something to cheer midway through the first period when Henri Jokiharju fired a shot through traffic that deflected in past Alex Nedeljkovic, but the energy lagged until the last 10 minutes of the game.
“It’s a huge two points to be able to come back,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “There wasn’t a lot being created either way. I was a little bit frustrated with the lack of creation on our end – I thought we had opportunity to create more and we didn’t. We just didn’t seem to have it with the puck, but we stayed with it.”
The Wings fell behind 2-0 when Jeff Skinner spun around and scored at 9:21 of the third period. The Wings challenged goalie interference and lost, which forced them onto a penalty kill.
That was when the Wings finally got on the board, with Vladislav Namestnikov picking up his 11th goal of the season and Moritz Seider (22) and Tyler Bertuzzi (14) picking up assists. Larkin tied it three minutes later when he came off the bench and finished a setup by Robby Fabbri.
“Great for Vladdie for the shorthanded goal, because then I thought after that, it really ignited us,” Blashill said.
Taking another look
Coming off the success of Saturday’s 4-0 victory over the Sabres, where Bertuzzi’s addition to the second line and Namestnikov’s promotion to the first line was a success, the Wings naturally replicated the lines Monday. Bertuzzi made a nice play in the offensive zone to set up Pius Suter in the first period, but Aaron Dell made the save. It was tough sledding for the Wings in the opening period; they generated offensive zone time, but weren’t able to convert that into quality chances.
After a so-so start, the Wings had better jump to start the second period. Suter was denied on a doorstep attempt on his first shift, with Dell deflecting the puck as Suter loomed just outside the paint. Alex Tuch snuck behind the Wings’ defense midway through the period and beat Nedeljkovic, but the Wings challenged offside and video review was clear on that matter, leaving the score at 1-0. Jeff Skinner split the Wings defense on the last shift of the period and ripped a shot from the slot that Nedeljkovic turned into his 14th save of the game.
Nedeljkovic keeps going
Nedeljkovic denied Victor Olofsson when he got in on a breakaway early in the third period. Nedeljkovic came into the game having just collected his first shutout in a Wings uniform, and making his fourth straight start, and fourth against the Sabres. Calvin Pickard was the backup, as the Wings announced shortly before the game that Thomas Greiss was placed in COVID-19 protocol.
Originally the schedule had the Wings playing at the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, which normally would mean the backup would start, but that game was postponed two weeks ago by the NHL in order so that the New York Islanders instead could make up one of their postponed games.
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.