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Wings fall into last place in division after loss to Sabres

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Buffalo's Sam Reinhart, left, celebrates a first-period goal against the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday.

Detroit – Before Tuesday’s game, the 1997 Stanley Cup winning Red Wings team was honored and cheered.

Then the game started, ended, and fans were left scratching their heads about this Red Wings team after they lost 4-3 to the Buffalo Sabres.

That’s now win-one, lose-one over four games, fairly matching the Red Wings’ season-long struggles (15-16-4, 34 points).

With the loss, the Red Wings fell behind Buffalo into last place in the Atlantic Division.

BOX SCORE: Sabres 4, Wings 3 

“The biggest thing is we need points right now,” said Drew Miller, who scored one of the Red Wings’ goals. “It’s a tough loss. We won going into the break and we wanted a big effort tonight. We fought back pretty hard but came up short.

“We have to find a way to win those kind of games.”

The urgency to this season is already there, with the Red Wings within distance of reaching third-place Boston (six points) and an automatic playoff berth – but failing to generate any consistency and now having to climb over four teams to get to third place.

“Everyone understands where we’re at right now,” Miller said. ‘We have to find the positive of every game and continue to move forward. Our schedule doesn’t get any easier. We have to put this one behind us and be ready to go.

“Points are hard to get.”

The Red Wings play their next seven games on the road, although considering they’re 3-10-3 over their last 16 home games being away from Joe Louis Arena could be a positive thing.

Video: Sabres move ahead of Wings in standings

The Sabres (13-13-8, 34 points) ended a four-game losing streak (0-2-2), as the Red Wings fell behind early and failed to keep the puck out of the net.

“It’s just hard to win in this league and hard to score,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “If you’re constantly climbing from behind, it makes it hard. It’s hard to win in this league after giving up four goals. We have to do a better job of not letting that happen.”

Buffalo’s Evander Kane scored his second goal of the game at 8 minutes 29 seconds of the third period, snapping a 3-3 tie.

Kane took a pass from Brian Gionta that sprung Kane alone on goalie Petr Mrazek, and Kane snapped his 8th goal, regaining the Buffalo lead.

Thomas Vanek had just tied the game 3-3 at 6:33 with  – wait for it – a power-play goal.

The goal ended an incredible 0-for-28 stretch for the Red Wings on the power play, which was ranked last entering the game (as was Bufffalo’s penalty kill, incidentally).

Blashill didn’t like the defensive play on Kane’s game-winner.

“That one was crazy,” Blashill said. “You have to be above people. Those are young mistakes and that’s part of the process as players mature. The only way to get better is to play them and I’ve made the decision to do that.

“They’ll have to grow from those mistakes.”

Henrik Zetterberg opened the Red Wings scoring.

Sam Reinhart (power play) and Jack Eichel had the other Buffalo goals.

Scotty Bowman: Red Wings lack key ingredients

Eichel’s goal came 22 seconds after Miller scored regained Buffalo’s two-goal lead, 3-1, and was one Mrazek was not happy with.

“One for sure I should stop,” said Mrazek, of Eichel’s drive to the net. “I didn’t think I had something open on the first post. Nice shot by him, but I should have it.”

Blashill felt Mrazek wasn’t totally to blame for the four goals allowed to Buffalo.

“We have to find a way to stop more pucks,” Blashill said. “We can’t give up four goals and expect to win a lot of games in this league. It’s not just Petr. It’s on the whole team.

“As a hockey team, we have to do a better job of defending. We’ve talked a lot about scoring but you better be careful if you start giving up goals.

“You can’t give up four goals and expect to win.”

Red Wings’ Brendan Smith is back