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The overnight report: Red Wings-Sabres wrap-up—unlucky fourteen

In the end, it came down to a desperation save by Chad Johnson and a puck that Gustav Nyquist couldn't lift. Johnson stopped Nyquist, and the Buffalo Sabres emerged with a 2-1 victory over a Red Wings team that led for 21 minutes and had nursed either a lead or a scoreless tie for 54:46.

The game wasn't nearly that simple, though the "simpler" team prevailed.

The Red Wings were attempting to establish a 14-game unbeaten streak, but a Red Wings team that had surrendered a 3rd period lead in 10 of those 13 "unbeatens" finally met a deficit they couldn't rally from. The Sabres were simply trying to establish a 2-game winning streak, and, according to the Sabres, the game hinged upon battling through frustration.

For the Sabres, winning the game involved staying patient and battling through the frustration that was the Wings' defense for the first 54 minutes of the game, as Ryan O'Reilly told the Buffalo News's Amy Moritz:

“I was a little frustrated,” O’Reilly said. “I had some really good chances before that. … It’s just one of those things of going to the net and trying to create something. It was good play by Sam putting it in the area and for me it was just a lucky bounce going in.”

It wasn’t a different kind of lucky bounce for Larsson, who found the puck on his stick after a shot from Weber bounced off players and to him – alone in front of Mrazek. It was his first goal of the season.

“The puck came around and Webby shot it and I thought maybe I go to net, get a rebound or something but it came right on my stick and I was trying to get the release off quick,” Larsson said. “It’s a really good feeling.”

And again the goal was a result of a simple, hockey play.

“We’re not going to get in it in a fancy, passing, tic-tac-toe type of way,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “We need to do it in a simple fashion and we need to get it in the offensive zone and sometimes we’re going to have to grind it out to get our opportunities. The opportunities we did get tonight were a direct result of that. It’s tough to do sometimes when you’re down in a game and you need a goal, but we did.”

While the Sabres stayed patient and simple on offense, Chad Johnson was keeping the team in the game. Larsson had the game-winner, but it was Johnson with the highlight-reel sprawling save on Gustav Nyquist in the closing seconds to seal the win.

“That cage was absolutely as wide open as you can get from our angle,” Bylsma said. “And Chad makes a desperation move to get there and what a save that was. It’s a dynamic, dramatic glove save by him that preserves the victory.”

What was a "character" win for Buffalo was a frustrating loss for the Wings, as the Associated Press noted:

"I think it shows quite a bit of character on our part for sticking with it," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said.

O'Reilly tied it 1-all at 15:46 when his deflected shot beat goalie Petr Mrazek between the legs. Larsson scored the winner with 3:13 remaining, his first goal in 30 games since April 6 last season against Carolina.

"Just going to the front of the net and maybe get a rebound and it comes right to my stick," Larsson said. "Really good to get that goal."

Despite its third-period lapses, Detroit had earned at least one point in 13 consecutive games.

"We've been playing a little bit sloppier lately," Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "So maybe this was the little wake-up call here. Just got to get back to playing the right way for 60 minutes."

For the Sabres, the answers to their problems, both individual and collective, were easy, as they told Reuters...

After O'Reilly tied the game with 4:14 remaining in the third period, Larsson gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead when he put in a rebound with 3:13 left for his first goal of the season and first in 30 games.

"Just going to the front of the net and maybe get a rebound, and it comes right to my stick," Larsson said.

He talked about how he dealt with his dry spell.

"As time goes, you get more frustrated, but you've got to keep going out there and doing the right things," Larsson said.

Goalie Chad Johnson made 32 saves for Buffalo, including a save on Gustav Nyquist with 19 seconds left. The Detroit center appeared to have an open net from the bottom of the right circle, but Johnson dived across the crease to knock Nyquist's shot away.

"Dive!" Johnson said was all that went through his mind. "I was just trying to make the save."

Johnson continued while speaking with WGR 550's Paul Harrington, who snagged the following quips:

Ryan O'Reilly [on the slower tempo of Monday's game] "Decisions had to be a bit better, limit our turnovers, play more of the north style, play out kind of game, and getting pucks deep and not trying to play their fineese game. For us, it was a lot better obviously. Limiting those guys to one goal is tough to do with the amount of skill that they have. I thought we showed great maturity tonight."

...

Chad Johnson [on amazing save in final seconds] "Think it was just a shot from the point, rebound went over to [Nyquist] and he didn't one-time it to start with, so just desparation, jumped over."

"I thought we played everything we wanted to, the right way. Defensively, we were in good positions. They're going to get chances. It's like Calgary, the Edmontons...they're skilled teams, they make plays. You gotta be strong. Tonight you saw that, where we just stuck with it, used each other and did it strong."

And NHL.com's Paul Harris' recap will serve as our pivot point between the perspectives of the Sabres and those of the Red Wings' players and coach:

"We're not going to get goals in a fancy, tic-tac-toe manner. We're going to have to make it simple," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said.

Larsson gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead when he put in a rebound with 3:13 left for his first goal of the season, ending a 30-game drought.

"Just going to the front of the net and maybe get a rebound and it comes right to my stick," Larsson said. "As time goes, you get more frustrated, but you've got to keep going out there and doing the right things."

Richards gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead 4:01 into the second period when he one-timed a shot past Johnson, high on the short side, off a cross-ice pass from Pavel Datsyuk. It was Richards' second goal of the season.

"I was on my right, off-wing," Richards said. "I was just kind of waiting in the weeds there, hoping they left me open and he kind of waited until they all went to him. It's good to be that close and get a wide-open look."

Johnson denied Red Wings forward Tomas Jurco on a penalty shot with 5:04 left in the second period after it was ruled that defenseman Mike Weber interfered with Jurco on a breakaway. Jurco came in and cut towards the left wing boards, slowed down, came back to the middle of the ice and tried to beat Johnson with a forehand shot.

"Guys have different moves. I was just trying to stay with him," Johnson said.

For the Red Wings, the game wasn't simple, and dropping a 3rd-period lead stung as much as it would have in game 1 of the 13-game streak. In some ways, the Wings felt it was worse this time around, as they told CBS Detroit's Ashley Scoby:

“I think before when we lost third-period leads, I think we kind of stopped playing. I don’t think we did that as bad today,” Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “They made some plays on the tying goal, I missed my guy, he tips it in, and then it’s a shot from the point … I thought we kept playing; we kept creating chances in the third.”

The last time these two teams met, it was a barrage of goals that ended in the Wings’ first shootout victory of the season, 5-4. Detroit needed late-game heroics then, too, after blowing 2-0 and 3-1 leads.

An offensive explosion was missing Monday in the rematch, with Detroit not finding the back of the net until 4:01 into the second period.

Pavel Datsyuk pushed the puck left, then in the same motion fired right to a waiting Brad Richards. For his second goal of the season, Richards slashed it into the top corner of the net behind goalie Chad Johnson. That 1-0 score held until the final few minutes of the game, when things once again took a turn for the worse.

“Tonight it might not be glaring mistakes,” Richards said. “Pucks were just being shot in from the point, weird bounces. Some nights it’s not a systematic breakdown, but for whatever reason mentally it seems to be snowballing on us a lot in the third period.”

The Red Wings are still fifth in the NHL Eastern Conference, but would have more points to show if not for late-game collapses.

“We’ve got to have more poise and confidence in those situations,” head coach Jeff Blashill said. “There’s a difference between confident and too relaxed. You’ve got to be confident but urgent and we’ve got to get better in those situations. … Which way are we gonna go? We gonna grow or are we gonna feel sorry for ourselves? The league doesn’t care about our issues so we better grow.”

Richards continued while speaking with Michigan Hockey's Stefan Kubus...

“I think you develop (a killer instinct), it’s still a young team, that’s something we work on,” Richards said of closing out leads. “Sometimes, these things have to happen to realize you bear down even more in all those situations. Sometimes, one-goal leads in the third period, that’s where if you’re patient, you can create a lot of offense because they’re pressure.

“It seems it’s happening probably a bit too often, but something we’ve got to learn as a team, go into third period with leads, we’ve got to close it out and lock it down, and I’m sure we’re gonna talk about that and go over that more this week with some time off.”

And even when reflecting on his goal, Richards was more or less focused on the "process" over the product:

At 4:01 of the [second] frame, Richards scored his second of the year to open the scoring. Pavel Datsyuk brought the puck into the Buffalo zone, pulled up a little as he approached the net to freeze the defenders, dished a pass across the ice to Richards, who was able to bang home the one-timer for his second goal and third point in five games.

“It’s good to be that close to the net and get a wide-open look,” Richards said. “It seems like I’m getting chances a lot of nights, some of that is you keep doing that and odds are they’re going to go your way, so I’ve just got to keep focusing on that and play good away from the puck and I’m confident that I’ve been here 100 times where sometimes pucks just don’t go in, but you’d rather be getting the chances, getting the shots and having the goalie have to make saves. That keeps your hopes up.”

Still, Richards admitted to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan that blowing 3rd period leads has become a tired old story...

"We have to work on closing out games," said forward Brad Richards, who scored the Red Wings' goal. "Two goals (allowed) in the last five minutes is not how we want to do things. It seems like it's happening a little bit too often. But going into the third period, late in the period with a lead, we have to close it out."

And the coach certainly agreed...

"We had some opportunities and there were some things we did well," coach Jeff Blashill said. "But we have to find a way to win the hockey games."

The 13-game streak, in which the Red Wings were 8-0-5, was the longest for the Red Wings since a 20-game streak of earning points in March 2006. Monday's loss also ended a stretch of nine games the Red Wings had earned a point at Joe Louis Arena (6-0-3).

The Red Wings had a penalty shot attempt by Tomas Jurco in the second period, but Chad Johnson turned away the attempt.

An 0-for-2 night on the power play — including one just before the Buffalo rally — made for a disappointing offensive Red Wings performance.

"We have to find a way to score the next goal," Blashill said. "We had a power play late, we have to score. You have to find a way to make plays, defensively or offensively and tonight we were on play away. We have to find ways to make that play."

Even when asked whether the team lacks a killer instinct, as noted by the Windsor Star's Bob Duff:

“Yeah, we’ve got to find a way to score the next goal,” Blashill said. “If you score the next goal late in the game there – and we had a power play late – you’ve got to find a way to score the next goal. That’s the easiest way to salt away wins. The harder way, which is something we’re going to have to do a better job of obviously, is when you do have a one-goal lead you don’t give up the next goal. I just think collectively we’ve got to be better.”

Blashill is also of the belief that the lack of a killer instinct is going hand in hand with the learning curve of some of his younger players who are still being schooled in the methods required to lock down games.

“I think 100 per cent,” Blashill said. “I’ve been asked lots of about it, is it this, is it that? It’s a combination of things. Part of that is confidence. We’ve got to have more poise and confidence in those situations. There’s a difference between confident and too relaxed. You’ve got to be confident but urgent and we’ve got to be better in those situations. We’ve got to grow as a team. Which way are we going to go? Are we going to grow or are we going to feel sorry for ourselves? The league doesn’t care about our issues, so we better grow.”

At the same time, Blashill also cautioned his team about letting their third-period woes get inside their heads and affect their psyche as a group when ahead late in tight games. It’s up to them as a team not to permit any sort of mental block to develop.

“I think that’s a decision we have to make every game we play,” Blashill said. “Are we going to let it? There’s no reason to. Every game’s a new game. Things that have happened in the past happened in the past. We’ve got to make sure, can we learn things? As soon as I came into the room I said ‘what could we have done different?’ So we look at it as a staff, we look at it as a team and we’ve got to build better and continue to get better going into Friday (against Vancouver).”

The Wings were matter-of-fact in dissecting the plays that cost them the game with MLive's Ansar Khan:

A lost defensive-zone faceoff and defensive breakdown cost the Red Wings when a wide-open Johan Larsson scored from the slot at 16:47.

"The puck kind of came and it actually hit our player and then bounced and then once it bounced those are real tough plays," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I thought the one thing we did a real good job of tonight was slot protection and on that play we didn't have guys there. We should have collapsed better there."

Blashill said his team didn't sit back and try to protect the one-goal lead.

"I don't think we changed the way we played at all," Blashill said. "I thought we were doing a fine job. We lose the faceoff there and then it was a bit of a scramble and it ends up in our net. So we got to do a better job executing at the end of the game."

Said Mrazek: "It's always a tough loss when you're up with five minutes left in the game and they score two late in third period. He just threw it from the blue line and I don't know if it skipped or just bounced off someone's skate into the slot and (Larsson) just put it in."

Again, Zetterberg wouldn't hide his disappointment with the result, as the Free Press's Helene St. James noted...

"Before when we lost third-period leads, we kind of stopped playing," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "I don't think we did that as bad today. They made some plays there. On the tying goal, I lost my guy, he tips it in. But we kept playing, kept creating chances in the third. But it is disappointing to come out of this game with nothing."

While Petr Mrazek went with his usual short-and-to-the-point answer:

"It's always tough loss when you are up with five minutes left in a game and they score two," Mrazek said. "That shouldn't happen."

The Sabres doubled up a minute later, undoing another third-period lead for the Wings.

"We've got to work on closing out games," Richards said. "Anything can happen, but two goals in the last five minutes is not how we want to do things. It seems it's happening a little bit too often, but something we've got to learn as a team is going into third periods, late in third periods, we've got to close it out and lock it down, and I'm sure we are going to talk about that."

Among MLive's Khan's post-game stats:

2 – Brad Richards' second goal of the season was the only offense the Red Wings managed.

8 – The Sabres snapped an eight-game losing streak at Joe Louis Arena that dated back to 2006.

8 -- Points produced by Pavel Datsyuk in 16 games since returning from ankle surgery. He assisted on Richards' goal and was the best player on the ice, according to coach Jeff Blashill.

11 -- Third-period leads the Red Wings have squandered this season. This was the first time they left the building without any points.

11 -- Shots combined by Brad Richards (five), Pavel Datsyuk (four) and Darren Helm (two), the team's most dangerous line.

DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose will take us out with comments from Henrik Zetterberg...

You did try for the second goal but it didn't seem to be going in? "We've been playing a little bit sloppier lately. So maybe this was the little wake-up call here. Just got to get back to playing the right way for 60 minutes."

You had a few squandered opportunities with the power play and the penalty shot? "We did. Then we had a pretty good chance to tie it up also. But that happens. I don't think we should have been in that situation. We should have scored a little bit more, probably had a two-goal lead or even a three-goal lead. Petr was really good again today. Our goalies have been outstanding this year."

Do you feel like you were better tonight in limiting turnovers?

"We kept that down, I think better today than we did last game. We're probably going to go over that and get the results tomorrow but it felt like we played a little bit safer with the puck."

And coach Blashill:

Does this young team need to learn how to win? “I think 100 percent. I’ve been asked lots of about it, is it this, is it that? It’s a combination of things. Part of that is confidence. We got to have more poise and confidence in those situations. There’s a difference between confident and too relaxed. You got to be confident but urgent and we got to be better in those situations. We got to grow as a team. Which way are we going to go? Are we going to grow or are we going to feel sorry for ourselves? The league doesn’t care about our issues, so we better grow.”

Can it become a mental issue with playing with a lead in third period? “Only if we let it. I think that’s a decision we have to make every game we play. Are we going to let it? There’s no reason to. Every game’s a new game. Things that have happened in the past happened in the past. We got to make sure, can we learn things? As soon as I came into the room I said ‘what could we have done different?’ So we look at it as a staff, we look at it as a team and we got to build better and continue to get better going into Friday.”

Multimedia:

Highlights: MSG posted a 1:52 highlight clip;

NHL.com posted a 4:42 highlight clip:

Post-game: MSG posted a 2-minute post-game interview with Johan Larsson;

The Sabres' website posted Dan Bylsma's post-game presser and comments from Ryan O'Reilly, Chad Johnson and Larsson's post-game comments;

Fox Sports Detroit posted clips of Henrik Zetterberg...

Petr Mrazek...

And Jeff Blashill's post-game comments:

The Free Press's Helene St. James posted a clip of Brad Richards and Blashill discussing the game:

The Wings posted clips of Mrazek...

Richards...

Zetterberg...

And coach Jeff Blashill's post-game comments:

Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted an 18-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 12-image gallery;

MLive posted a 15-image gallery;

ESPN posted a 25-image gallery;

And NHL.com, the Sabres website and the Red Wings' website posted 14-image galleries.

Statistics:

Detroit out-shot Buffalo 32-30. Detroit was out-shot 9-6 in the 1st period, but Detroit out-shot Buffalo 13-9 in the 2nd and 13-12 in the 3rd.

Special teams: Detroit went 0-for-2 in 4:00 of PP time; Buffalo went 0-for-3 in 6:00 of PP time.

Goaltending: Petr Mrazek stopped 28 of 30 shots for Detroit; Chad Johnson stopped 31 of 32 for Buffalo.

The 3 stars were picked by Michigan Hockey's Stefan Kubus, and he picked Johan Larsson, Petr Mrazek and Chad Johnson.

The Red Wings' goal: Richards (2) from Datsyuk (6) and Helm (5) @ 4:01 of the 2nd, 1-0 Detroit.

Shot attempts 52-47 Detroit. Detroit fired 32 shots on Johnson and 20 wide/blocked.

Individual stats:

 

Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa penned an article about the platooning of Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek:

It is working and likely to continue. The days of ironmen goaltending are mostly gone, and the frequent injuries in the NHL dictate the considerable benefit of having two going well, simultaneously.

“Yeah, I’m pretty comfortable with that,” Mrazek said, when asked about the possibility of playing an approximately even number of games with Howard, until the end of the season. “We’re playing lots of games back to back, so the schedule is busy. So, I think the rotating, you know, it’s a good thing.”

...

Yeah, it’s going well, so no reason to change it,” Howard said. “I mean, if anyone out there is trying to create a rift between us, it’s going to be pretty difficult. We have a pretty good friendship. I don’t know if people realize that, or not. But, you know, we even sit with each other on the plane. We’re probably a lot closer than people know. It’s working for us, right now. It’s working for the team. So that’s what’s most important.”

Meanwhile, Howard knows how it is supposed to work in Detroit. Mike Vernon was a mentor to Chris Osgood. Chris Osgood was a mentor to Jimmy Howard.

Now, Howard is the older guy, and “the kid” is pretty darned good.

“I’m 31 years old now,” Howard said, with a laugh. “It seems like just the other day I was learning from Ozzie. It’s fun. That’s a different aspect of it all.”

Krupa continues...

Jeff Blashill wins an award for the kindest, "That penalty shot move was terrible" ever, per the Free Press's Helene St. James:

Coach Jeff Blashill cautioned that penalty shots, "feel like you should score, but that's not the way it really goes lots of times. He did what he could, he made the move, and it didn't go in."

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Comments

w2j2's avatar

The Wings quit playing in the third.  It looked like the ice was tilted.  At that point you could predict they would lose this game.

Posted by w2j2 on 12/15/15 at 07:50 AM ET

Hootinani's avatar

The Wings quit playing in the third.  It looked like the ice was tilted.  At that point you could predict they would lose this game.

Posted by w2j2 on 12/15/15 at 06:50 AM ET

Exactly, and add to it the fact that the Wings seem incapable of hitting the broad side of a barn on their scoring chances.  They got what they deserved.

Posted by Hootinani on 12/15/15 at 09:18 AM ET

DocF's avatar

I am not going to let the Red Wings upset my gizzard any more during the Christmas season.  I will continue to follow, but I will not listen or watch them “play” at least until after December 26.

BAH, HUMBUG!

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 12/15/15 at 11:05 AM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Outside of Dekeyser, once again Blashill has Hank and Pavel leading the team in ice time, over 20 minutes for a game that ended in regulation. Unsure I like that formula in round robin play, would like to see their time shaved down a couple of minutes for our elder statesmen.

Posted by MurrayChadwick from Window Seat on the Captain's Ship on 12/15/15 at 01:11 PM ET

betweenthecirclesblog's avatar

Like many have said before me, you cannot play 40 minutes of hockey and expect to win. Players must show up at puck drop and not be casper the ghost all game and only make their presence known on the last shot of the game to win.

Posted by betweenthecirclesblog on 12/16/15 at 08:37 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.