Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard discusses the loss to the Sabres. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Buffalo — The longer this losing streak continues, the better chance the Red Wings’ season will be going down the drain with it.
The Red Wings suddenly haven’t won in five games (0-4-1), the latest defeat Tuesday in Buffalo, 1-0.
So that fine start the Red Wings (4-5-1, 9 points) were off to has been forgotten.
The effort was much better than Sunday’s miserable loss to Vancouver. The Red Wings played with more energy and there was better effort.
But the offense has dried up lately — one goal in two games, three goals in three games — and not getting goals doesn’t help your chances of winning.
“We came out way better, more like before the Vancouver game,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “It was a tight game. You want to see a little more offense than we created, but I don’t think they had much offense either.”
Already, a victory is much needed. The Red Wings agreed you can’t let a losing streak such as this one spiral out of control.
“We definitely can’t,” said goaltender Jimmy Howard, who rebounded with a starring, 31-save effort. “It’s five (losses) in a row and we all know that. We have to nip it in the bud, and sooner rather than later. Tonight was better, a step in the right direction, and we have to keep going that way.”
Buffalo (3-5-2, 8 points) won its first home game in four tries (1-2-1), with goalie Robin Lehner stopping 32 shots. Benoit Pouliot scored the goal, his second, in the second period.
The defeat was Howard’s first loss against the Sabres in 10 career decisions (8-1-1).
Pouliot scored at 9:45 of the second period, breaking the ice on a scoreless game.
Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg discusses the loss to the Sabres. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Sabres defenseman Victor Antipin began the sequence with a shot from the point that Howard stopped.
The puck wound up behind the net, where Pouliot retrieved it and quickly snuck a wraparound attempt into the net, defenseman Xavier Ouellet not quick enough getting to the post and Howard getting there a split-second too late.
“It’s one of those things, the puck bounced right for them,” Howard said. “But just keep working and pushing forward and the bounces will turn.”
The Red Wings had 32 shots, but not nearly enough quality chances, and didn’t have nearly enough traffic around the net.
“I don’t think we produced enough chances,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We played pretty good defensively and certainly came out and played hard. But we muddied our own track. We have to find a way to score some goals.”
Getting bodies to the net, and making life difficult for opposing goalies, would likely help.
“I’ve been harping on this, and have to get our guys to do it better, we have to get more bodies to the net,” Blashill said. “We have to be more belligerent about getting bodies to the net. It’s a dirty goal league and that’s the reality. We have to get to the net more.”
An offensive spark could be on its way in the form of forward Andreas Athanasiou.
Athanasiou received his work visa, and traveled Tuesday to Buffalo from Toronto, joining the Red Wings at the arena.
Athanasiou is scheduled to practice with the team Wednesday in Tampa but Blashill wouldn’t pinpoint the date of a return to the game lineup.
Athanasiou had been skating with a team in Switzerland until late last week, and on his own.
“He’s put himself in position to play as soon as possible,” Blashill said. “The nice thing with him is when you’re a real good skater, it’s easier to transition. I anticipate him getting an opportunity here soon and having a good impact.
“He can give us a boost. He can create something out of nothing and in a game like tonight when you need someone to step up and make a play, he’s done that in the past.”