In a season full of lows, the Buffalo Sabres hit what has to rate as the lowest one of all Thursday night.
After Evan Rodrigues tied the game with 46.2 seconds left in regulation, the Sabres couldn't score in OT and Andreas Athanasiou's shootout winner gave the Detroit Red Wings -- by far the worst team in the NHL -- a 4-3 victory that ruined the NHL starting debut of Sabres goalie Jonas Johansson.
Detroit scored on both of its shots, by Dylan Larkin and Athanasiou, while Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart were stopped for Buffalo by Wings goalie Jonathan Bernier.
Buffalo lost for the fifth time in the last six games but the real indignity of the defeat came in the Red Wings' stats. Detroit entered the game just 12-38-4. The Wings were winless in their previous nine games overall (0-8-1) and had dropped nine straight on the road since their Dec. 14 win in Montreal. The win allowed them to avoid their first 10-game skid on the road since 1986.
The Sabres put up a thoroughly uninspired effort for the first 40 minutes and drew the ire of their fans as they trailed, 2-0. They bounced back with two goals in the first 8½ minutes of the third period to get even, fell behind on Tyler Bertuzzi's tally with 6:04 left and managed to get even with Johansson on the bench for an extra attacker.
Rodrigues' post-game thoughts: "We waited too long to turn it on. We clawed our way back but unfortunately didn't get the two points. We had chances but it just didn't go our way tonight."
Getting closer: After trailing by two goals at the second intermission, Jimmy Vesey pulled Buffalo within a goal on a backhand at 5:48 of the third, corralling a rebound of a Conor Sheary shot.
Nifty tip: Scott Wilson, just up from Rochester, scored his first goal of the season at 8:29 by tipping home a Colin Miller shot from the right point. Miller had peformed some nifty stick work to free himself for the shot in the right circle.
Falling behind: The Red Wings had been shut out in their previous two games but broke a scoreless streak of more than 133 minutes early in this one as Larkin beat Johansson with a screened shot from the left boards at 4:23. Detroit had been outscored, 37-12, during the previous nine games.
Double trouble: Larkin put the Sabres into a 2-0 hole by converting a 2-on-1 break with just two-tenths of a second left in the period. The play came as Detroit beat the clock after Sam Reinhart maneuvered through the Wings in the zone and then hit the goalpost.
Detroit broke back down the ice and Reinhart couldn't keep up with Larkin, clearly coasting before the horn as the Red Wings star beat Johansson.
Tough luck: The Sabres appeared to tie the game midway through the first period as Wilson tipped home a Lawrence Pilut shot but the goal was wiped out by goaltender interference, as it was ruled Wilson's stick impeded Bernier's ability to play the puck.
Johansson's shootout thoughts: "They scored both of them. They're good players for sure. I just tried to stay open mind to whatever the player's going to do. Just have to get back to work and be better."
The lineup: Rasmus Dahlin (upper body) missed his second straight game while Zach Bogosian and Rasmus Asplund were healthy scratches. Johan Larsson (lower body) and Curtis Lazar (flu) both returned after missing Tuesday's game against Colorado.
Counting the house: The Sabres announced there were 16,607 tickets sold for the game, the lowest total since Dec. 10. The in-house crowd was perhaps only a couple thousand smaller than that.
Next: The Sabres headed to New York immediately after the game to complete their back-to-back against the Rangers Friday night at 7 in Madison Square Garden. Buffalo hosts Anaheim here Sunday at 3.