Casey Mittelstadt and Kyle Okposo scored power-play goals and the Buffalo Sabres won for just the fourth time in 11 games by beating the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 on Saturday.
Linus Ullmark stopped 28 shots, bouncing back after allowing 10 goals on 75 shots in his previous two outings, including a 6-5 overtime loss to Carolina on Thursday.
His best save came with 8:03 remaining, and immediately after Buffalo’s Tage Thompson squandered a 2-on-1 break at the other end. Ullmark held his ground to prevent Andreas Athanasiou’s attempt to beat him through the legs on a wide-open breakaway.
Dylan Larkin scored for Detroit, and Jimmy Howard finished with 18 saves, allowing three goals on 12 shots in the second period. Detroit has lost two straight since winning five of seven.
Conor Sheary also scored for the slow-starting Sabres, who scored three times in the second period after managing just four shots in the first.
Buffalo improved to 4-6-1 in its previous 11 games and 10-14-5 since ending a franchise-record-matching 10-game winning streak.
It was a much-needed victory for the Sabres (27-20-7), who have gone from briefly leading the Eastern Conference standings in November to 10th place. The Sabres began Saturday with 59 points, four behind Pittsburgh, which holds the East’s second and final wild-card berth.
Frustration began settling in for the Sabres following their loss to Carolina.
Several Sabres spent Friday clarifying or apologizing for comments they made following the OT loss.
Forward Sam Reinhart said he misspoke in saying “we need more from our goalies,” a comment that didn’t reflect other comments he made. On Friday, Reinhart said he meant the team needs to do more for its goalies.
Coach Phil Housley clarified what some interpreted as him questioning general manager Jason Botterill.
“That’s Jason’s job,” Housley had said when asked to evaluate whether the Sabres need help on defense. On Friday, Housley said he misunderstood the question, believing it was about whether the Sabres intended to call up defensemen from the minors, which is Botterill’s responsibility.
Sheary opened the scoring 75 seconds into the second period when he intercepted Justin Abdelkader’s soft pass at Detroit’s blue line. Sheary cut into the middle and, using Mike Green as a screen, snapped a shot into the left side.
Mittelstadt scored nine minutes later by one-timing in Jack Eichel’s pass into the right circle for Buffalo’s first power-play goal.
After Larkin scored on a wrap-around to cut the Sabres’ lead to 2-1 with 2:46 left in the second period, Okposo scored a power-play goal with 31 seconds to go, and shortly after Michael Rasmussen was penalized for holding.
Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen first passed the puck back and forth with Evan Rodrigues in the left circle, before swinging a pass to Okposo in the right circle. Okposo turned and stepped toward the net and snapped a shot that beat Howard high on the short side.
Buffalo’s power-play unit is beginning to heat up, having converted five of 10 opportunities in its last four games after going two of 30 in its previous 12.
NOTES: Red Wings D Trevor Daley is nearing his return after missing his 24th game with foot injury. Coach Jeff Blashill ruled out Daley from playing at Chicago on Sunday while saying he’ll have an update on the player’s status before the game at Nashville on Tuesday. … Red Wings LW Tyler Bertuzzi (upper body) missed his sixth straight and Blashill expects him to miss at least the next two. … Sabres assigned D Casey Nelson to AHL Rochester for a conditioning stint on Friday. He missed 24 games with an upper body injury. … Sabres Ds Marco Scandella played his 500th career game and Rasmus Ristolainen played his 400th. … With an assist on Mittelstadt’s goal, rookie Rasmus Dahlin became the NHL’s fifth defenseman to reach 30 points before turning 19.
Red Wings: At Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.
Sabres: Host Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.