Detroit — One down, many more to go.
But despite Wednesday’s victory, the Red Wings hope that most of those remaining games will be a bit tidier than this one.
Still, their 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres in their season opener and Eastern Conference debut felt good.
It wasn’t perfect, far from it. Yet, there were promising signs.
“There’s still a lot of areas we have to work on,” said goalie Jimmy Howard, who made 19 saves in the win. “(But) it’s nice to get the first game under your belt and first win, as well.”
Mikael Samuelsson and Pavel Datsyuk scored 36 seconds apart in the first period for the Red Wings, but it was the penalty kill that was 7-for-7 that may have been the team’s first star.
The Red Wings had to kill two lengthy, two-man Sabres advantages of 1 minute 31 seconds early in the first period and 51 seconds near the end of the second period.
“They (the kills) were huge tonight,” said forward Daniel Alfredsson, who made his Red Wings debut. “Usually the goalie is the best penalty killer and Howie was outstanding, but also our guys were sacrificing themselves and throwing their bodies in front of shots.
“I’m sure Buffalo walks away from here thinking this was a wasted opportunity with the amount of power-play chances (the Sabres had).”
The Red Wings outshot the Sabres, 34-20.
Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons scored at 12:36 of the third period, cutting the lead to 2-1.
Howard went behind the net and cleared a puck off Buffalo’s Brian Flynn, deflecting it to the front of the net, where Girgensons backhanded the puck past Howard.
“I decided to go hard around and it was unfortunate it hit a man and wound up in the slot, right on the stick,” Howard said. “It was my bad.”
Samuelsson and Datsyuk’s goals, after the big, early two-man penalty kill in the first five minutes, got the Red Wings rolling.
Samuelsson scored at 12:05, after spending nearly all of last season recovering from several injuries.
Cory Emmerton, who passed waivers Monday and was nearly sent to Grand Rapids, centered a pass to Samuelsson cruising the middle of the ice. Samuelsson deflected the puck high past goalie Ryan Miller (East Lansing, Michigan State), igniting an already rowdy crowd.
“The start at home, you always want to get that first goal and get the crowd going a little bit,” Samuelsson said. “We got two quick goals and then slowed down a little bit.”
As it turned out, Emmerton had quite the eventful evening.
Emmerton was awarded a penalty shot in the second period after Buffalo forward Thomas Vanek tripped him on a breakaway during a Sabres power play in the second period.
But Miller stopped Emmerton, keeping the score, 2-0.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit more energized,” Emmerton said. “It’s going to be like that every day, that’s how I want to play.”
Datsyuk made it 2-0, 36 seconds after Samuelsson’s goal.
With the Red Wings putting unrelenting pressure on the Sabres, Datsyuk capped the onslaught with backhander at 12:41.
Datsyuk controlled the puck through the slot and snapped a shot past Miller, who had bodies in front of him.
Buffalo had four power-plays in the second period but again was turned away by Howard, and a determined penalty kill.
The Red Wings appeared to take a 3-0 lead on a power-play goal by Todd Bertuzzi in the second period but it was waved off when Daniel Cleary was penalized for interfering with Miller.