Even the team with the best record in the NHL needs to get a good night’s rest between games, especially when they go up against an inspired team, as the Red Wings discovered in a 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday afternoon.
The Red Wings had planned to travel from St. Louis to Buffalo on Saturday evening, but due to high winds, the plane was forced to land in Cleveland, and the Wings did not make it to Buffalo until a few hours before the game. They found the Sabres ready to take revenge on their former star goaltender, who left them this summer on bad terms.
Dominik Hasek’s return to Buffalo to face his former teammates did not get off to the start he had hoped for. Detroit had to deal with over a minute of five-on-three play early in the first, during penalties to Jason Williams and Sergei Fedorov. Miroslav Satan received the puck from teammate Tim Connolly, and fired on net from a few steps past the blue line. Hasek, screened by Curtis Brown, was unable to see the shot, and the Sabres were up by one.
The goal ended the penalty to Williams, but Buffalo still had some time at five-on-four, and they were able to make the most of it. Kris Draper got the puck away from a Buffalo attacker along the boards, but his pass was intercepted by Maxim Afinogenov, who sent the puck cross-crease to Brown. Brown one-timed the shot, and the puck was in Hasek’s net.
The Red Wings had a power play chance of their own when Afinogenov was sent off for tripping. The power play kept control of the puck for most of the two minutes, but were unable to score.
Chris Chelios attempted to make a pass along the blue line just as the power play was ending, but it went wide and out of the zone, and Afinogenov grabbed it up as he stepped out of the penalty box. Nick Lidstrom tried to catch up, but Afinogenov was away, and tricked Hasek by putting the puck high into the net with a backhand shot.
Detroit tried to play with a little more energy in the second period, but the Sabres scored again just over a minute in. Chris Gratton brought the puck in on the left wing side, and Hasek came out of the net expecting to block a passing lane. Instead of passing, Gratton put the puck into the open net.
Detroit finally got on the board a few minutes later. Boyd Devereaux got the puck to Brett Hull behind the net, and Hull passed it out front. The puck deflected off the stick of goalie Martin Biron, and straight to the stick of Pavel Datsyuk, who lifted the puck into the net.
Scotty Bowman pulled Hasek from the game to put Manny Legace in net for the start of the third period. Without their former goalie to shoot at, Buffalo lost much of their incentive to play hard, but neither did Detroit gain inspiration from the goalie switch. The Sabres did score once more. Satan took a pass from Gratton and put the puck in the net with 14:58 remaining.
Hasek stopped eighteen of twenty-two shots in two periods, while Legace stopped six of the seven he faced in the third. Biron stopped nineteen of the twenty shots the Red Wings sent against him. The Red Wings next game will be at home against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday evening.
Datsyuk’s goal, his eleventh of the season, puts him into fifth place in NHL rookie scoring.