Benoit Pouliot scored the game’s lone goal and Robin Lehner notched a 32-save shutout as the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Detroit Red Wings 1-0 on Tuesday night.
It was a close, tight-checking game in which goaltending and defensive play would determine the outcome, and the Sabres were able to utilize those strengths well, according to coach Phil Housley.
“I think we showed our commitment to being able to play well without the puck,” Housley said. “You look at Detroit’s lineup, they’ve certainly got a lot of firepower and they’re pretty deep. It was important that our forwards on the forecheck were reloading because their defensemen like to get involved in the play and just try to take away the middle of the ice as much as possible.
“I thought we did a terrific job in the zone in front of our net and when we needed a save, Robin delivered for us.”
Lehner noted that the team’s defensive efforts in front of him were excellent.
“I thought we played solid defense today and they helped me out on rebounds,” Lehner said. “I think we played a solid, good game. We have things that we need to get better at, but from the defensive end today I think it was real good.
“We’ve got to keep learning what makes us successful. I think the first 10 minutes of the game we went back and played like we did before, but after the middle mark of the first period, we started getting the puck in deep and we started getting zone time and pressure.”
It also proved to be a bounce-back effort for Lehner, as he allowed four goals in a 5-4 overtime victory over the Boston Bruins on Saturday.
“It’s a compliment to (Lehner) that he comes back and plays a really strong game at home,” Housley said. “He made some really big saves at the right time for us. When we did give up opportunities, it was maybe a little bit of puck management. It’s really strong, and it’s going to boost his confidence.”
Pouliot’s goal came in the middle of the second period on a wraparound attempt that snuck past Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard with 10:15 remaining in the stanza of play. Victor Antipin and Taylor Fedun were credited with assists on the goal, with Antipin’s helper marking his first career NHL point.
“I didn’t really know where the goalie was,” Pouliot said. “I was trying to do it as quick as possible.”
“I thought we turned up a lot of opportunities, especially Victor,” Housley said. “He just takes a shot from a bad angle that finds the net and we jumped on the rebound and Pouliot puts it in. It’s great for him to get his first point.”
Buffalo’s defense frustrated Detroit’s forwards all night long, but especially in the third period. The Red Wings weren’t able to apply much pressure on the Sabres’ back end, and what the Sabres accomplished was precisely what they wanted to happen.
“It means we followed our gameplan,” Lehner said. “I said from day one that we have a good gameplan but we’ve just got to do it.
“Look at that third period. We were just flipping the puck out, putting it in, kept them going 200 feet back to get it and we had numbers back home. It’s hard for teams to do that.”
The victory also marks Buffalo’s first set of back-to-back wins this season – which should boost morale for the club, according to Housley.
“It’s great,” Housley said. “This team’s been through a lot. They’ve had some tough starts that they’ve had to battle through, but they’ve now found a way to win a tight game, which is really important.”
Heading into the Sabres’ next game at Columbus on Wednesday night, the team will look to continue to apply the lessons that they learned from their outing against Boston and used against Detroit.
“The game in Boston wasn’t like a wake-up call, but it really showed when we play our game, we’re successful and when we force pucks, teams are good and they’re going to make you pay,” Lehner said. “When we play a simple game, we have very skilled guys in here and they’re going to take advantage of the opportunities that they get.”