BUFFALO, N.Y. – Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood picked a perfect place to catch Dominik Hasek on the NHL’s career win list.
Too bad for Buffalo, because Osgood made 32 saves in Detroit’s 4-1 win over the Sabres on Monday night – further derailing their playoff chances with less than a week left in the regular season.
“I don’t know a lot of things, but I knew that today that I could tie Dom here, so that’s pretty cool,” said Osgood after he earned his 389th NHL victory and moved into a 10th-place tie with the Red Wings’ former starter in a town where Hasek played most of his career. “It’s a great honour for me to be mentioned with a goalie of his stature. To do it here is a little more special.”
The only blemish was Osgood’s lost bid for his 50th NHL shutout with 10:06 left. Paul Gaustad converted a scramble in front to cut Detroit’s lead to 3-1.
That’s as close as the Sabres got. Failing to take advantage of a fast start in which they outshot the Red Wings 13-5, the Sabres lost their second straight and squandered another opportunity to move up in the playoff hunt. With three games left, Buffalo sits 10th in the Eastern Conference, four points behind the New York Rangers and Florida at the post-season cutoff.
“It’s tough. Until you’re mathematically out of it, you can’t quit. Even if you are, you can’t quit,” Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said. “We put ourselves in a tough spot.”
Osgood wasn’t the only Detroit player to achieve a significant plateau. Marian Hossa scored twice, including his 40th of the season, and added an assist. Nicklas Lidstrom’s empty-net goal in the final minute was the 227th goal of his career, moving him into a tie for 12th among NHL defenceman.
Brad Stuart, with his second of the season, also scored for a team that’s already clinched the Central Division title. Coming of a 3-2 win over Minnesota on Sunday, the Red Wings won on back-to-back nights, and firmly put behind them a frustrating three-game skid.
“We seem to have found our way,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve got a proud group. I think they said, ‘Enough’s enough, let’s get playing again.”‘
With 111 points, Detroit moved to within four points of league-leading San Jose.
Osgood did his part in the early going, making several superb stops. Less than two minutes in, Osgood denied Adam Mair’s attempt to flip in a shot at the right post. Later in the period, he somehow got his stick on Jason Pominville’s point shot that got to the net through a crowd in front.
The Red Wings took control during a two-minute span bridging the second intermission.
Stuart opened the scoring with a power-play goal with 1:19 left in the second period when his point shot sneaked through a crowd and beat Miller.
Hossa than scored consecutive goals less than nine minutes apart in the third period in helping Detroit built a 3-0 lead. Hossa’s first proved demoralizing to the Sabres, coming 36 seconds into the frame, when he backhanded in a loose puck after Miller stopped Lidstrom’s point shot. Hossa made it 3-0 less than nine minutes later, converting a feed from Pavel Datsyuk.
“We played patient and we played well,” Gaustad said. “They took advantage of their chances and we didn’t. It’s tough to get down to that team.”
How tough? The Red Wings are 37-4-4 when scoring the first goal, and 34-1-5 when entering the third period with a lead.
“These are difficult games,” Osgood said. “Everybody we seem to be playing of late seem to be on the brink of making it or fighting somebody else for a playoff spot. It’s good games for us going into the playoffs. It gets us as playoff-ready as possible.”
Notes: The Sabres’ three goalies entered the day with a combined career record of 2-17 against the Red Wings, including backup Patrick Lalime’s 1-10 mark. Miller dropped to 1-5. … Red Wings D Brian Rafalski missed his fourth game with a groin injury. He skated for about an hour earlier in the day and is expected to return Thursday when Detroit hosts Nashville. … The Sabres signed college free-agent forward Travis Turnbull to a two-year, entry level contract. The son of former NHLer Perry Turnbull, Travis just completed his senior season at Michigan and was immediately assigned to Portland (AHL). … Lidstrom is tied on the defencemen goal list with Kevin Hatcher and Steve Duchesne.