DETROIT -- For several years, bad performances have carried from one game to the next for the Buffalo Sabres. Sometimes even from one week to the next week. And the one after that.
That mentally pourous mentality is quickly going away. A dozen games into this season, the Sabres have yet to lose two in a row. Their response to tough nights has been significant. They simply refuse to let a losing streak overtake them.
Thursday night in Madison Square Garden, they were shoddy with the puck all over the ice and got drubbed, 6-2, by a New York Rangers team that had dropped five straight and was quickly running afoul of its fan base.
With no time to work out the kinks after that one, the Sabres jumped right back in against another wounded opponent here Friday night. Just like last week in Los Angeles, they made things look much better.
Sam Reinhart had a goal and an assist, Linus Ullmark made 41 saves and there were solid contributions up and down the lineup as the Sabres blanked the downtrodden Detroit Red Wings, 2-0, in Little Caesars Arena.
At 9-2-1, Buffalo is back atop the NHL's overall standing and got a split of a road back-to-back set for the second time in two weeks.
Said coach Ralph Krueger: "For me, that was the most enjoyable win of the season, under the circumstances of having lost our way in phases of the game yesterday that were quite disappointing, and how in such a short period of time they were able to reconnect with our game."
"We always have the mentality you don't want to lose two in a row. That's an obvious thing for us," said Ullmark, who posted his third career shutout and first of the season. "You want to get on the winning track right away. You don't want to get those second and third and fourth losses. You want to keep the train rolling at all times."
The Red Wings outshot the Sabres, 12-3, over the first 17 minutes but didn't break though as Ullmark's key stop of a Valteri Filppula breakaway kept the game scoreless.
"Looking at the game now afterwards, it was huge," Ullmark said. "Some days you make those saves and some days you don't. But I've got full faith in my boys in front of me that even if I don't make the save, we're still going to win."
Still, a goalie making a save like that is huge for a team that you think would have been wobbly from Thursday night. Not necessarily so, said Reinhart.
"I liked the way we were able to regroup this morning, talk a little and watch a little bit about last night," Reinhart said. "Refresh our mind, come back and we were ready to play tonight."
Reinhart made a big play by tipping the puck to Jake McCabe, whose wrister from the left circle at 11:40 of the second period opened the scoring. Reinhart then deflected home a luscious Victor Olofsson pass at 1:15 of the third to give the Sabres breathing room.
— Buffalo Hockey moments (@SabresPlays) October 26, 2019
Jack Eichel did dirty work on both goals, especially down low and on the wall on the McCabe goal. Olofsson added a foolproof screen of goalie Jimmy Howard on that one as well.
"The goal doesn't happen if 'Olie' take his eyes away," McCabe said. "I could have shot it anywhere in that net because he couldn't see it. That's the kind of hockey we needed to play tonight. Our top line delivers like that."
Eichel, who had just one point on the road in his first six games away from KeyBank Center, got the job done in this one and the coach was suitably thrilled by his captain's two assists.
"The first one was just a goal created on will," Krueger said. "That wall battle he gave it all and that's the captain we need to step up and make a difference to tip this game in our favor. He really came out as a leader today."
The Sabres protected the lead over the last 10 minutes through Ullmark. Whereas the shots on goal were once 25-24 in Detroit's favor, they ended the game 41-25 as the Red Wings pressed hard over the final 10 minutes to get 16 of the game's final 17 shots.
Rasmus Ristolainen (26:01 of ice time, three blocks) made one key save in the final minutes but Ullmark made nine of his own over the final 2:32.
"There were a lot of 'flank' shots," Ullmark said, noting how his defense kept the Red Wings to the side. "'Risto' made a terrific block at the end and gets the puck out deep. Those little details make a huge difference in the end."
McCabe's details saw him miss the final 10 1/2 minutes of the first period as he was getting his face stitched in multiple spots. But he was philosophical about what it all meant.
"I got a puck in the chin my second shift and I got my face slammed into the glass my third shift so I might have a new Halloween costume I guess," a smiling McCabe deadpanned. "But it's well worth the two points."