Buffalo — Sit back, compose yourself, and get ready to read something extraordinary.
The Red Wings actually won a hockey game Thursday.
The Wings came into Buffalo, where the Sabres are going through a bad stretch of hockey themselves, and defeated the Sabres, 4-3.
Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou scored in the shootout, as the Wings won the skills competition, 2-0.
The victory ended a nine-game winless streak (0-8-1) for the Wings, who also ended a nine-game road losing streak.
They hadn’t won since defeating Ottawa in a shootout Jan. 10 — and hadn’t won on the road since defeating Montreal on Dec. 14.
“Just to come into the room and see smiles and listen to some music, (it was) just a total team win and everybody feels good right now,” said Larkin, who scored the Wings’ first two goals, along with the shootout tally. “We have to keep it going.”
The Wings (13-38-4) have lost so often this season, it’s rare they’ve been rewarded for any sort of positive efforts.
So, on a night they lost two leads in the third period, but maintained their focus and were able to secure a victory, it was a satisfying evening.
“There’s no doubt if you never get rewarded it’s hard to keep your confidence and believe in what you’re doing,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “It’s really important to be able to get rewarded. One of the hardest challenges we’ve had this year is when we do things right, we haven’t been rewarded.
“We weren’t perfect but the effort level was great and it was good to get rewarded for a fairly good process.”
Dylan Larkin talks about the Red Wings' 4-3 shootout victory over Buffalo. The Detroit News
Evan Rodrigues tied it 3-3 with 46.2 seconds left for the Sabres, skating through the slot and flipping a shot past a diving Jonathan Bernier, forcing overtime.
Just minutes earlier, Tyler Bertuzzi scored his 18th goal, on the power play, at 13 minutes, 56 seconds of the third period, breaking a 2-2 tie. Valtteri FIlppula, camped behind the net, found Bertuzzi all alone in the slot, and Bertuzzi whistled a shot past goalie Jonas Johansson.
But Rodrigues scored with the goalie pulled, forcing the Wings to work late for their rare victory.
“You have to stick the process and at some point pucks will go in,” Bernier said. “They did tonight.”
Buffalo cut the lead to 2-1 at 5:48 of the third period, with Jimmy Vesey scoring his seventh goal, batting a rebound past Bernier. Then, after the Wings killed a Givani Smith slashing penalty, the Sabres tied it on Scott Wilson's goal at 8:29.
Wilson, who played briefly for the Wings three years ago, redirected a Colin Miller shot through Bernier for his first NHL goal since March 8, 2018.
But the Wings didn’t let the adversity sink them.
“We hung in there,” Blashill said. “Bernie has been real good for a long time and he was real good in the third period, made some big saves in critical moments.”
Larkin opened the scoring at 4:23 of the first period, just 27 seconds after the Wings killed a penalty.
With Luke Glendening providing a stout screen in front of Johansson, who was making his first NHL start, Larkin’s shot from a side angle somehow squeezed past Johansson, who never saw the shot.
The Wings caught a break just two minutes later when an apparent Buffalo goal — it looked to be scored by Wilson — was ruled no goal by officials for goalie interference.
The Wings extended the lead to 2-0 on Larkin’s 15th goal, and second of the game, in exciting fashion.
With the teams skating four players a side, Robby Fabbri and Larkin gained on the puck and broke on a 2-on-1 rush.
Fabbri carried the puck into the zone, passed to Larkin, and Larkin finished with a nifty fake, backhanding the puck over Johansson with just 0.2 seconds left in the first period.
“I had no idea,” Larkin said of the time remaining. “I heard the guys shouting shoot it. I looked up (earlier in the shift) and there was about 12 or 13 seconds, so I knew there wasn’t much time but I figured to go for it.”