The Detroit Red Wings have made the Stanley Cup playoffs for 25 consecutive years, a streak that seems to be in jeopardy this season, and are used to spending their time in the high-rent district of their division. Its seems, however, that times are definitely changing.
The Sabres' meeting with the Wings Wednesday in KeyBank Center marked the first time the teams have played with the Sabres ranked higher in the standings since March 13, 2010 when Detroit was still in the Western Conference and the Sabres were headed to the championship of the old Northeast Division.
The Sabres entered the night with a one-point lead over Detroit but the teams are back to even after the Red Wings scratched out a 2-1 shootout victory. Gustav Nyquist and former Sabre Thomas Vanek both scored in the shootout to counter a goal by Sam Reinhart. Detroit snapped its four-game losing streak while preventing the Sabres from winning three straight for the second time this season. The Sabres are 1-3 in shootouts.
In the nets: Detroit's Jimmy Howard entered the game with a 1.85 goals-against average and .940 save percentage and mostly confounded the Sabres again by making 32 saves, including a big one in OT on Rasmus Ristolainen. Howard entered the game 7-0-1 against Buffalo with a 1.52 GAA and .937 save percentage. Robin Lehner's 23 saves were highlighted by a breakaway stop of Anthony Mantha in the first 15 seconds of OT.
Old friend burns bridges: It took 36 minutes for a goal to hit the net and a former Sabre did the damage. With Taylor Fedun caught up ice, Thomas Vanek used a spectacular spinning pass to feed Gustav Nyquist for the one-timer that put the Red Wings into a 1-0 lead. It was the first point for Vanek since returning from an 11-game absence due to a lower body injury. He returned to the lineup during Sunday's 4-3 home loss to Calgary.
The Captain answers: The Sabres pulled even at 1:42 of the third period when Brian Gionta drove the net and had the puck deflect off him past Howard. It was Gionta's fourth goal of the season, first in 11 games -- and first of the season at home. The play was made by Evander Kane, who bulled the puck wide into the Detroit zone and got it on net with one hand. It then richocheted to Gionta and apparently off a Detroit defenseman because Kane was not credited with an assist.
Dessert tray: The Red Wings were committing turnovers all over their zone in the first period but the Sabres couldn't take advantage of eight Detroit giveaways. Marcus Foligno got in alone on one sequence and was stoned by Howard.
First of a foursome: The Wings visit Buffalo again on Jan. 20. The Sabres play their final two games in Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 27 and March 20. The Wings move next year into a new downtown facility, Little Caesars Arena, that they will share with the NBA's Detroit Pistons.
In the House: The Sabres announced 18,360 tickets were sold for the game. The annual night before Thanksgiving contest is usually one of the team's automatic sellers and there were plenty of Detroit fans in the house, as well as a good number of empty seats in the corners of the 300 level.
Up next: It won't be all turkey and stuffing for the Sabres on Thanksgiving. They have an afternoon practice scheduled in the arena, followed by a flight to Washington so they can prepare for Friday's game against the Capitals in Verizon Center. They play Tuesday in Ottawa and the next home game is Dec. 1 against the New York Rangers, featuring prized rookie Jimmy Vesey. The Hobey Baker winner from Harvard opted not to sign with the Sabres after they traded for his rights during draft week and instead went to free agency and signed with New York in August.