The Detroit Red Wings fell to the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in an overtime thriller on Thursday night. Now-undisputed number-one netminder Jimmy Howard was stellar, stopping 27 of 30 shots in the loss, while Buffalo’s Robin Lehner was even better, turning aside 35 of 37.
In the first period, Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen scored from Nathan Bealieau and Johan Larsson. The goal came before the 4-minute mark of the first period on the team’s third shot. Detroit was outshot 14-10 in the first 20 minutes.
In the middle frame, Detroit had a much better period, leading 16-10 in shots, and finding a goal from defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (an unlikely goal scorer). He wristed a shot past the goalie Robin Lehner at the top of the slot.
Ten minutes later, Buffalo’s Evander Kane scored a wraparound goal on the power play. Detroit would challenge the play for potential goalie interference, but the called stood. Although forward Jason Pominville was standing firmly in the crease of Jimmy Howard, no contact with Howard was made, allowing him the ability to make the save.
After the game, head coach Jeff Blashill was frustrated with the lack of consistency from NHL referees. Citing that Pominville made contact with the goal stick, and that goalies lead with their stick, he did not believe that Howard was fully able to save the shot (or have a chance at saving the shot). Just prior to his post-game press conference, Howard’s media session was nearly identical, as he was baffled by the ‘good-goal’ call as well with the same argument.
Blashill said that the once black-and-white crease-rule is now “ultra-gray” and that he does not pin the blame on the referees (who ultimately make the decision after the play is sent for review)
With 2:56 to play the Wings earned a power play, as Larsson was called for tripping. Howard was pulled with 1:10 of power play time remaining, giving them a 6-on-4 advantage.
30 seconds remained on the man-advantage when Justin Abdelkader managed to tie the game. Frans Nielsen shot the puck, which trickled into the crease for the awaiting Abdelkader. Lehner was out of position to make the last save, and it was an easy push-in goal.
In the ensuing overtime period, it was an exciting showcase of talent for five whole minutes. Tomas Tatar had a great breakaway chance early in extra play but missed the net. Later a flurry of back-to-back 2-on-1s allowed both teams to have prime scoring chances. Athanasiou made a quick pass to defenseman Trevor Daley who joined the rush, but Lehner slid across to make an outstanding save.
Immediately following that play, Howard robbed a would-be goal with a stellar save of his own. Back the other way, Lehner made an even better cross-crease pass-shot. Finally, Buffalo defenseman Marco Scandella wristed home a goal right as the clock ticked to zero. An official review showed that the puck crossed the goal line with exactly 0.2 seconds left.
Detroit was that close to extending the game into the shootout, but they were unable to withhold the last 10 seconds of pressure.
Young blueliner Xavier Ouellet played in only his second game of the month of February (2nd since January 25th). He showcased a big hit that got the crowd going in the third period. There is a chance he may be moved at the upcoming trade deadline.
Forwards Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, along with Andreas Athanasiou and Luke Glendening have all been in the rumor mill of potential deals. In addition to Ouellet, offensive d-man Mike Green is very likely to have a new home come next week. His contract expires this year, and GM Ken Holland will want to get something in return, rather than let him go in free agency.
The goal of this trade deadline is to acquire picks, picks, and more draft picks. Holland showed his commitment to a more formal rebuild with the Petr Mrazek trade. Two conditional picks were obtained in that deal.