It was the 8th time in the last 17 games that Detroit has given up a third period lead.
After a scoreless first period with some quality scoring chances on both sides, Brad Richards opened the scoring, four minutes into the second. With four Sabres watching Pavel Datsyuk gain the blue line, he dished a pass to Richards who one-timed a shot past Johnson. When you let Datsyuk come in unchallenged, you’re asking for problems. Buffalo had one… in the back of their net.
Down 1-0 late in the third period, Byslma was forced to open it up. Like flipping a switch, they got on the board. Ryan O’Reilly, ‘Mr. Clutch’ tipped a Reinhart shot, going 5-hole on Mrazek for the equalizer. Larsson’s goal a minute later gave the Sabres the lead which they held onto for the win.
Chad Johnson made some excellent saves and had a great all-around game. In the second period, he even stopped a penalty shot by Tomas Jurco, albeit a rather lame attempt. Johnson’s best save came with 19 seconds remaining in regulation, when he lunged to rob Gustav Nyquist from an easy open net goal that would’ve tied it up.
The last time the Sabres and Red Wings met, it resembled pond hockey. That game was filled with end-to-end, free-wheeling speed, and odd-man rushes. Detroit took a season-high 46 shots, eventually skating away with a 5-4 shootout victory. Coach Dan Bylsma wanted none of that this time around.
Wearing their blue uniforms, the Sabres played a close-to-the-vest style, taking the air and the crowd out of the game. It was a perfect plan to neutralize the Wings’ speed, keeping them on the perimeter, and reducing any play in front of the net. As a result, Buffalo snapped Detroit’s 13-game point streak, leaving Joe Louis Arena with a rare regulation win, their first in Detroit since March 6, 1994.
Ristolainen’s assist was his 18th point in his last 18 games. He put forth another stellar effort, including hustling down the length of the ice after a puck jumped over his stick while at the left point during a second period power play. Though Darren Helm had a few steps on him, Ristolainen never gave up. When Johnson alertly charged out of his net to the right circle, attempting to poke the puck away, and missed, Ristolainen was there to stop what would’ve been an easy goal for Helm.
Ryan O’Reilly now has 12 points (3G, 9A) in his last ten games, including at least a point in each of his last eight. It ties his career-best and is the second-longest active point streak in the NHL.
“Our decisions were better. We limited turnovers and didn’t play their finesse game,” said O’Reilly. “We just want to enjoy ourselves out there. We want to work together and not overthink things. We’re going to find ways to win games.”
The Sabres can’t celebrate this too long. Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. they’ll face the New Jersey Devils at First Niagara Center. It’ll be their third game in four nights and the first of a three game home stand that also includes Anaheim and Chicago.