The Detroit Red Wings take the last game of the season series against the Buffalo Sabres 4-2, sweeping them in the season series, and pulling to within 1 point of clinching a playoff berth.
The first period was very uneventful for both sides. Play through the middle was choppy and passes for either side were very errant at times. Though a couple of good chances were generated, both on and off the power play, both goaltenders stood tall to keep the game scoreless leaving the first twenty minutes. Shots were 12-9 in favor of Detroit.
The first goals of the game would be struck in the middle frame. Buffalo would get on the board to start the period, at 1:31, when the puck would be thrown in front of Jimmy Howard, where Zemgus Girgensons was battling for position. The puck would deflect off of his skate and perfectly into the net behind Howard to take the 1-0 lead. Detroit would strike back late in the period, at 12:28, When Johan Franzen and Brendan Smith flew into the Buffalo zone on goaltender Matt Hackett. Franzen fed a pass across the zone to Smith, who buried the wrister to tie the game 1-1 leaving the period. Shots were 25-18 Detroit after two periods of play.
A flurry of goals would be scored in the third period. Detroit would be the first, at 3:33, when Darren Helm won the offensive-zone faceoff, and got the puck back to Kyle Quincey who put a shot to the net and had it stopped. Helm would scoop up the loose puck in the ensuing scrum and put it over Hackett to take the lead 2-1. They’d strike again for some insurance at 15:46, when the Sabres turned the puck over in their own zone, and Drew Miller made a good deflect with his skate to keep it in the Buffalo zone. David Legwand would pick up the puck and put it in 5-hole under Hackett for the 3-1 lead. Buffalo wouldn’t go quietly though, and put up another at 17:49, again from Girgensons. He took the puck into the Red Wings zone, making a good move to get around both defenders and in close on Howard. He put a quick wrister to the far-side and around Howard to cut the lead to 3-2. The dagger goal came in the closing moments of the game, as Buffalo pulled Hackett for the 6th skater. Pavel Datsyuk picked off the puck in the neutral zone and softly flung it into Buffalo’s zone and into the empty net at 19:55 to seal the 4-2 victory for the Red Wings, pulling them to within 1 point of clinching their 23rd consecutive playoff berth. Final shot tallies totaled at 37-27 in favor of Detroit.
All they need is 1 win. Not even a win, even an overtime or shootout loss, and they clinch for this season. With the number of injuries that Detroit has had all season, and the players that have been out for the durations that they have, this is a huge feat for this team, and they should all be very proud. They’ll get little rest, as they head to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins tomorrow night. See you then, Nation!