DETROIT – Friday was a night of first for two Buffalo Sabres rookies.
However, the Sabres couldn’t pull out a victory against the Detroit Red Wings. Buffalo mounted a late rally, scoring the final two goals of the game, but fell 3-2 at Joe Louis Arena.
Coming off a physical battle the night before in St. Louis, the Sabres fell behind 3-0 to Detroit in the first period. Goaltender Matt Hackett, who stopped 28 of 31 Red Wings shots, was impressed with how the team was able to stick with two of the NHL’s perennially great teams.
“We competed,” he said. “We showed we can play with any team, first place or a great team like Detroit here. They’re both tough buildings to play in and we’re going in the right direction, I think.”
The first period was an up-tempo affair with chances being generated on both ends of the ice. However, the Red Wings scored three goals on 12 shots in the first to take a 3-0 lead.
Deslauriers made it a one-goal game 6:40 into the third period. Johan Larsson won a faceoff to the right of Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard and then kicked the puck over to the middle of the ice. Deslauriers went to the slot, took the loose puck and beat Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard to make it 3-2. The goal was also his first career point.
He celebrated the birth of his daughter earlier in the week and had the chance to celebrate in a different way Friday night.
“It’s a gift,” Deslauriers said. “It’s something special, but I think I’ll stick with the birth of my child first. But the second is especially my first goal."
Deslauriers, 23, has only 14 games under his belt. Buffalo acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings at the NHL Trade Deadline as part of the package that sent defenseman Brayden McNabb to the West Coast. Deslauriers was supposed to join the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League, but injuries with the Sabres meant he joined the team before he could even suit up for the Amerks.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan has been impressed with his play for the most part, but he also sees a player that still has a lot to learn.
“There’s nothing like confidence. Confidence breeds a lot of things and you never know, but he’s got a long ways to go before he scores at this level consistently,” Nolan said. “He’s still a young player and he got thrown into the fire right after we picked him up in a trade, put him right into a situation that he’s in here, but he’s done well for himself.”
Jamie McBain scored Buffalo’s first goal, a power-play marker with 7:32 to play in the second period to make it 3-1.
The goal came as he crept down to the left faceoff circle and beat goaltender Jimmy Howard short side with a one-timer. The pass came from Ruhwedel, who earned his first career point on the play.
“When you have a good pass like that you don’t have to think a whole lot about what to do next,” McBain said of the play that set up his fifth goal of the season. “You can kind of focus on the shot, focus on the situation about where you want to put the shot instead of deal with taking it on your backhand or taking it out of your feet or something. So it was a great pass and I was able to find a whole.”
The Red Wings struck first as Darren Helm scored 5:47 into the game. A shot by Danny Dekeyser from the point deflected off the glass and out in front of the Buffalo net. Matt Hackett made a right toe save off a shot by Luke Glendening but the rebound went to Helm around down on the goal line and he roofed it in for his 11th goal of the season.
Then Detroit scored twice in 1:16 to go ahead by three. First, Tomas Jurco deflected in a shot by Dekeyser with 5:48 left in the period. Then, Alfredsson cashed in on a Hackett rebound in front f the net with 4:32 to play.
Nolan decided to stick with Hackett between the pipes instead of pulling him in favor of the other rookie goaltender on the roster, Nathan Lieuwen.
“That was a big game for Matt, especially after the first period and the way he fought back and the way he battled back,” Nolan said. “And that’s what we want to see with the team moving forward, see who’s going to battle, who’s going to compete and it was a good thing down 3-0, the easy thing to do is probably put Lieuwen in, but we wanted to see how he battled and he battled well.”
Hackett said was thankful to have the opportunity to stay in the game and give his team a chance to stage a comeback. He’s started four of the past six games and feels like he’s progressing with each start.
“I feel better. I feel more calm. I have to find a way to stay between that calm and I have to respect the other team,” he said. “I’ve got to find a way to make a few more saves than I have been.”
The Sabres had a bit of a scare midway through the opening period.
Luke Adam left the game with 9:26 remaining in the first. A knuckling shot by Jamie McBain deflected slightly off the shoulder of Justin Abdelkader and hit Adam – who was standing in front of the net – in the mouth. He returned for the start of the second period.
Stafford has missed the past three games with a lower-body injury and the team lost Foligno in his first shift against the Blues on Thursday.
Before the game, Nolan said that Foligno’s injury may not be season-ending like they originally thought, but that they’ll still monitor his progress closely so that he doesn’t sustain any setbacks. Stafford’s injury however, could keep him out a little bit longer than the team initially thought. Nolan said that Stafford looked a little bit worse on Friday than the day before.
Buffalo wraps up its three-game road trip with a game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. The game can be seen on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m.