The Buffalo Sabres finally found their scoring touch at a time when they are going to need it most.
Top offensive star Thomas Vanek sustained what the team described as an upper body injury after scoring his second goal in a 6-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night, an outcome that left the Sabres with mixed emotions.
Buffalo will be without Vanek for quite some time.
“It’s tough,” said coach Lindy Ruff, who wouldn’t provide the exact nature of Vanek’s injury except to say that the two-time 40-goal scorer will be out for weeks. “But I think we have enough depth.”
Though Vanek landed awkwardly and slid into the end boards after putting the Sabres ahead 5-1 at 12:36 of the second period, Ruff said he was hurt earlier in the game.
“It’s unfortunate because he played really well tonight,” said centre Derek Roy, who had three assists as part of a four-goal second period. “It’s going to be a huge miss, but it’s going to be somebody’s turn to step up.”
They certainly showed that against the Red Wings. After managing only four goals in its first three games this season, Buffalo (3-0-1) scored that many in a span of 6:43 in the second period to open a 5-1 lead.
Paul Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta had a goal and assist each, and Drew Stafford and Clarke MacArthur also scored for the Sabres, who along with Dallas (1-0-3) are the only NHL teams without a regulation loss this season.
Ryan Miller made 23 saves, including a blocker stop on Valtteri Filppula’s penalty shot late in the second period. He hasn’t allowed more than two goals in his four starts this season.
Filppula and Tomas Holmstrom scored for the Red Wings (2-3-0), who had a two-game winning streak snapped. Detroit hadn’t lost to the Sabres in regulation in the previous six meetings (5-0-1), dating to a 5-1 defeat at Buffalo on March 10, 2002.
The Red Wings were undone by uncustomary defensive lapses and failed to create much offence in being outshot 37-25, including 29-14 over the final two periods. The Sabres beat the Red Wings at their own game.
“All the things we’re trying to do here, they flat out did it better,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
After trading power-play goals in the first period, the Sabres scored four times on seven shots to chase Chris Osgood, who allowed five goals on 22 shots.
Kaleta started the rally 6:03 into the second when he followed up rookie defenceman Tyler Myers’ end-to-end rush and converted the rebound. Vanek scored 2 minutes later when he his centring pass banked in off the skate of Detroit defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom.
MacArthur scored when he was left alone in front to backhand a puck between Osgood’s legs. Vanek’s second goal came off a Red Wings turnover in their end.
Jimmy Howard replaced Osgood and made 14 saves, allowing only Gaustad to convert his own rebound in front early in the third period to put Buffalo ahead 6-1.
“It obviously wasn’t very pretty,” Red Wings forward Daniel Cleary said. “We have to be ready to go the next game because an effort like that, you’re not going to win.”
Miller wasn’t too busy, especially after the first period, but made key stops to prevent the Red Wings from gaining momentum.
He got off to a strong start by making a solid shoulder stop on Cleary’s snap shot midway through the first period. Miller’s best save came on the penalty shot, when he held his ground and wasn’t fooled by Filppula, who faked a backhander before going with a forehand wrist shot.
Miller was pleased to see the Sabres finally rewarded on offence.
“We finally exploded,” he said. “We weren’t getting the goals the first few games, but that’s what we’re capable of with this system.”
NOTES: Coming off a 1-0 win at Nashville on Saturday, Miller’s shutout string was snapped at 92 minutes, 53 seconds when Filppula stuffed in Niklas Kronwall’s centring pass. … Red Wings C Darren Helm made his season debut after missing four games because of a shoulder injury. … Sabres D Toni Lydman made his debut after missing three games due to a hand injury. … The Red Wings outshot the Sabres 11-8 in the first period, marking the first time Buffalo has been outshot in a period this season.