The Buffalo Sabres looked to play spoiler on Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, who were battling for a wild card spot in the playoffs. The Sabres ended up falling short in the third period to the Red Wings losing 4-2 at the First Niagara Center.
Before Tuesday’s game, Detroit held the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with 87 points ahead of Columbus with 85 points and New Jersey with 84 points. Detroit is currently trying to hold onto their streak of consecutive years in the playoffs, which currently stands at 22 consecutive years.
With many injured players returning to the Sabres’ lineup on Tuesday night, the Sabres were looking to avoid the Red Wings from moving closer to making the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season. Forwards Chris Stewart, Torrey Mitchell, and Marcus Foligno all returned from injury to help replenish an already banged-up lineup for the Sabres. Even though the Sabres got all three players back, there were still some rust that showed from everyone coming back.
“You can tell they are all rusty,” Sabres’ head coach Ted Nolan said following the loss. “You can tell Stewart has not played for a while, you can tell Marcus has not played for a while. They are just two big bodies that tried to play a finesse game, and they cannot play that way. They have to play a physical game, they have to bump some bodies.”
Stewart, who has been out since March 6 with a high ankle sprain was a minus-2 with a hit in 17:09 of total ice-time. Foligno, who missed two games with a knee injury, was a minus-1 with two shots and two hits in 17:34 of total ice-time.
Torrey Mitchell played well in his return from injury that put him out for six games. Mitchell was a plus-1 with two shots and two hits in 16:19 of total ice-time. Mitchell was skating hard, playing physical, and also got over five minutes of ice-time on the penalty kill.
Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons was Buffalo’s best forward on the ice on Tuesday. Girgensons scored both Buffalo goals, including a highlight reel goal late in the third period to bring the Sabres to within a goal. Girgensons’ play on Tuesday’s game earned high praise from his coach.
“He plays the game right. If there is one thing our team can learn is just to watch the way he plays all the time,” Nolan said. “He is by far out best player on the ice. Why? Because he works both ends of the ice, he competes, he plays with some passion, and all those things that good players do. He was great tonight.”
Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe made his home debut on Tuesday. McCabe finished a minus-2 with one hit in 13:59 of total ice-time, but felt his performance was not his best since coming to the Sabres.
“I was not very happy with my play. I wish I could have contributed a little better to the team,” McCabe said. “I had a couple mental lapses. It is my fourth game now, and I cannot make those kinds of mistakes.”
For the Sabres, they now fall to 21-49-9 with three games left to the regular season. Their next game is on Thursday as the team travels the New York to take on the Rangers.
Opening faceoff is scheduled for 7pm. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network and WGR 550 AM.