Rasmus Dahlin knows Buffalo did not play well in the second and third periods Saturday afternoon. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres lose to Red Wings, move back in playoff chase: ‘A little bit tense’

DETROIT – The Buffalo Sabres, a team given up for dead earlier this month, have roared back to join the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, so one game won’t extinguish their hopes of grabbing the second wild card spot yet.

Still, Saturday afternoon’s 4-1 loss to the Red Wings, the start of a five-game road trip, could certainly haunt them down the stretch.

Against a reeling opponent that had lost seven straight games, the Sabres picked up where they left off in Tuesday’s 7-3 shellacking of the Red Wings in Buffalo, grabbing an early lead and outplaying their Atlantic Division rival.

Then the Sabres offered little pushback as the Red Wings seized control of the contest.

“We thought it was going to be the same way in the second and in the third (as it was in the first period),” defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, a minus-4 Saturday, said after the Sabres’ three-game winning streak ended. “They came out desperate and they really wanted it, so we were kind of on our heels. We never really came back.”

The Sabres never matched the Red Wings’ desperation before a capacity crowd of 19,515 fans in Little Caesars Arena.

Christian Fischer’s backhander from the ice tied it 5:35 into the second period. South Buffalo native Patrick Kane put the Red Wings up at 17:40.

“Those are two desperate teams going at it tonight,” said center Tage Thompson, who scored the Sabres’ only goal on the power play 11:22 into the game. “Obviously we’re on their heels, we’re chasing them, and they haven’t won in a while and we’re in their home building and we come out flying around.

“Obviously, they’re gonna have a bit of a pushback I thought it got us on our heels a little bit, we kind of tried to start forcing stuff and made the game a little bit easier on them.”

Daniel Sprong and Lucas Raymond’s empty-net goal sealed the game late.

“We never got the swagger and we never got the real momentum,” Dahlin said. “They did a great job but we never really picked it up.”

What happened? Why did the Sabres, who generated little offense for about 37 minutes before pulling goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, suddenly lose the tenacity that had helped buoy their recent surge?

“We didn’t have the energy and jump that we had in the first, obviously, and it slipped away,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “And I thought after that we played a little bit tense and a little bit tighter. Some guys didn’t look like themselves today even though the first period was good.”

The Sabres have 14 games left, starting with Monday’s contest against the Seattle Kraken, so they still have time. But realistically, if they don’t win perhaps three times during their trip, they could fall out of the postseason chase.

Saturday’s regulation loss, just the Sabres’ fourth in regulation in their last 13 outings (8-4-1), hurts their slim playoff chances.

The Red Wings, who moved into the second wild card spot, have 75 points, five more than the Sabres. The New York Islanders earned their 73rd point in Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to to the Ottawa Senators. The Sabres trail the Washington Capitals, who play a road game Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks, by two points.

Notes: The Sabres haven’t had a four-game winning streak this season. They’ve earned three consecutive wins twice. … Thompson reach the 20-goal mark for the third straight season. … Luukkonen made 22 saves. … The Sabres scratched defenseman Kale Clague and rookie winger Lukas Rousek (both healthy). … Fischer ended a 41-game goalless drought. He hadn’t scored since Dec. 2. His father, Mike, played hockey and baseball at St. Bonaventure.

3 thoughts on “Sabres lose to Red Wings, move back in playoff chase: ‘A little bit tense’”

  1. I sure wish the sabres could respond to this outing with a wins but I doubt it. been following the sabres all year as I have in the past but the Stanley cup is probably out again for this year. I live in Pa but do not like the Penguins. Been watching there broad cast all year but they seldom air other teams with their broadcast.Its all Penguins as they paid little attention to other teams

  2. For whatever reason, they fell flat in the 2nd period, and it carried over into the 3rd. After a great 1st period, Buffalo was outplayed in the 2nd & 3rd periods.

  3. Buffalo in the 2nd and 3rd periods got out-skated and out-hit, Detroit wanted it more. Players are not reacting to the play and this leaves them behind, you do not have time to think out there you have to be able to react to the play. They do not seem to sense where their teammates are when they have the puck or what to do if they do not have the puck. Just my observation.

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