DETROIT – The last time the Red Wings missed the playoffs, 15 members of the Sabres hadn’t even been born yet. Detroit isn’t guaranteed of extending its streak, but it sure wasn’t going to let a bunch of kids from Buffalo get in the way.
Detroit kept its playoff hopes alive with a 3-2 victory Monday in Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings kept pace with Philadelphia, which has the same number of points as Detroit (87) but has played one fewer game.
Buffalo lost in regulation for just the second time in seven games. Zemgus Girgensons scored with 2:50 left to end the shutout on just the 15th shot by the Sabres. Sam Reinhart made things interesting with 1:49 to go, ripping home a shot from the left side to make it 3-2.
The last time the Red Wings missed the postseason was 1989-90. Mark Pysyk, Evander Kane, Jack Eichel Johan Larsson, Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons, Jake McCabe, Casey Nelson, Nicolas Deslauriers, Zach Bogosian, Nathan Lieuwen, Hudson Fasching, Rasmus Ristolainen, Marcus Foligno and Ryan O’Reilly weren’t alive.
Detroit has made the playoffs 24 straight years. The second-longest streak in the NHL belongs to Pittsburgh at nine seasons.
“We want to want to play in the postseason,” Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “When we do that, obviously the streak continues. In here, our main focus is not the streak. It’s to be able to play in the playoffs.”
Kane hurt: Kane did not come out for the third period because of injury. He skated 11:34 with one shot, one hit and one blocked shot during the opening 40 minutes.
Breaking the seal: The Red Wings finally turned their solid first period into a 1-0 lead with 1:28 to go. With Josh Gorges in the box for Buffalo’s third early penalty, Johnson kicked away Zetterberg’s shot from the slot. The rebound went to Dylan Larkin, and the rookie buried it for his 22nd goal of the season.
Detroit outshot the Sabres, 12-4, during the first period. The shot attempts were 20-10. Buffalo won just six of 24 faceoffs (25 percent).
Coast to coast: The Sabres put Riley Sheahan on the highlight reels midway through the second period. The Detroit forward circled behind his own net then skated past, through and around Buffalo’s players without being touched. He completed his end-to-end rush by lofting a shot over Johnson’s glove and into the net off the post. The goal, with 9:05 gone in the second, gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead.
Detroit had a 21-9 shot lead through two periods.
Missed chance: Despite being outplayed, the Sabres had a great chance to tie the game, 1-1, when Detroit took a penalty with only 30 seconds gone in the middle period. Buffalo faltered again. The Sabres’ power play had been blanked in seven of the previous nine games, going just 2 for 27 during the span.
- Game feature by John Vogl: Red Wings steamroll Sabres
- Sabres notebook by John Vogl: O'Reilly nominated for Masterton, Howe in the house
Happy birthday, Mr. Hockey: During a first-period commercial break, the Red Wings introduced Gordie Howe on the scoreboard. Fans and players from both teams rose to their feet, with the patrons applauding and the skaters tapping their sticks on the boards. A Red Wings host then led the crowd in serenading Mr. Hockey with “Happy Birthday.” He turns 88 on Thursday.
Power-play work for Nelson: Sabres defenseman Casey Nelson joined the power play during his debut despite having spent no practice time with the unit. He was more prepared against the Red Wings and joined the second group of Evander Kane, Brian Gionta, Matt Moulson and Zach Bogosian.
“It’s definitely an experience thing,” Nelson said. “You’ve just got to go through it and get more comfortable out there. They did some sitdown with me before practice and really went over the power play. I think I’ve got more of a hang of it.”
Mixing at the top: For the second straight game, Hudson Fasching started on the fourth line along center David Legwand and left wing Matt Moulson but got shifts on the top line with Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane.
Wanting a piece: After watching Luke Glendening hit Sabres captain Brian Gionta, Marcus Foligno followed Glendening up ice and whacked him with his stick the entire way. Glendening declined Foligno’s invitation to fight, and the Sabres winger went to the box for cross-checking with 4:16 left in the second.
Next: The Sabres will conclude the 14th of 15 sets of back-to-backs Tuesday in Pittsburgh. Buffalo is 5-7-1 in the second game. After taking Wednesday off, the Sabres will host Toronto on Thursday in First Niagara Center.
The Penguins are 8-1 in their last nine games and lead the NHL with 48 goals in March. Pittsburgh is 2-0 against the Sabres this season, winning both games by a score of 4-3.