Sunday's game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Buffalo Sabres was there for the taking early in the third period.
And the Red Wings took it.
Detroit combined the poise of a defending Stanley Cup champion with a couple of lucky bounces as it defeated the Sabres, 4-2, before 19,983 in Joe Louis Arena.
The loss snapped Buffalo's winning streak at three games, its longest of the season.
"We are a young team, and we have to look at them and how they play the game. We can learn from them to become a better team and be better players," Sabres forward Miroslav Satan said.
With 19 minutes left in the game, Buffalo was in good position. Donald Audette had just scored to tie the game at 1-1.
The Red Wings figured to be a little spent after playing the day before in St. Louis while the Sabres had the day off.
However, the next few minutes didn't work out so neatly for the Sabres. Alexei Zhitnik and Richard Smehlik drew minor penalties, giving Detroit a five-on-three advantage.
Here's where the luck came in: Steve Yzerman's shot from the point deflected off Bob Boughner and into the tip of Dominik Hasek's glove, but the goalie didn't get a big enough piece of it to stop it from going into the net.
"I thought we battled back hard to get back into the game, and they took it right away from us when they had the five-on-three," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We got pumped up a little bit, bumped their goalie, and they got the call."
Ninety-one seconds after Yzerman scored, Kris Draper converted a two-on-one break with Doug Brown to put the Red Wings up, 3-1. A smart team like Detroit wasn't about to let the game get away at that point.
"They didn't panic at all," Matthew Barnaby said about the Red Wings' burst. "We scored a goal and they went back to what makes them successful. They got the puck in deep and let the big guys do the work. That's why they are the Stanley Cup champions. A lot of their guys have been in the league a long time, and that's the type of game when the veterans take over."
Yzerman completed a memorable night by scoring a short-handed goal with about nine minutes left.
He became the 13th player to reach 1,400 points. He also passed Guy Lafleur on the all-time goal-scoring list, taking sole possession of 12th place with his 560th and 561st career goals.
"He's a great ambassador for hockey and a great guy," Barnaby said. "But we don't want to get too many milestones against us. That means a couple are going in your own net."
Paul Kruse finished off the scoring for the Sabres, who came away mumbling about bad fortune and missed opportunities.
The first bad break came early in the second period, when a Dmitri Mironov shot hit Tomas Holmstrom, deflected at a 45-degree angle and went past Hasek and into the net for the game's first goal.
That ended Hasek's scoreless streak, which had reached 172 minutes, 16 seconds -- only 3:41 from his own Sabres' record.
"I didn't think about the streak. I just wanted to beat the Wings," Hasek said. "They got two lucky breaks -- two deflections, and that was the difference."
The Sabres' offense, which looked sluggish in the first 30 minutes, perked up in the latter stages of the second period. Buffalo had the puck bouncing around the goal a few times but couldn't get it past goalie Chris Osgood.
The Sabres' best chance in that span might have belonged to Satan, who had all sorts of open net from five feet out but couldn't lift a shot over Osgood.
"I want to forget that one," Satan said. "I don't know how that happened, but I missed the puck twice."
"There were lots of power plays and lots of penalty kills in the game," Audette said. "If we had scored on one in the second period, it might have been a different game. We sure had a lot of chances."
The Sabres wound up a frustrating 0 for 8 on the power play, and that contributed to Buffalo's loss in the final game of a four-city road trip. Buffalo (31-26-15) had a chance to take sole possession of fourth place in the Eastern Conference with a win or tie, but instead remains tied with Washington, Montreal and Boston with 77 points. The Sabres have the fewest victories among that group.
The Sabres had won the first three games of the trip, so it was a good week away from home.
Still, Curtis Brown wasn't content.
"We're never happy when we lose -- that's what made us so good on this trip," he said. "We're not satisfied with our last game."
The Sabres will try to change their luck Wednesday night, when the Los Angeles Kings come to Marine Midland Arena. It's the start of a five-game homestand for Buffalo, which plays seven of its final 10 games on home ice.