Craig Anderson started off in net for the Buffalo Sabres in the final game of the preseason, while Alex Nedeljkovic manned the pipes for the Red Wings. The Red Wings, still finalizing their roster, dressed a more inexperienced team while the Sabres’ roster was much closer to the real deal, minus Rasmus Dahlin who was not in the line-up.
The Sabres came out flying to start the first with Nedeljkovic forced to make a good save on a strong backhand move by Tage Thompson. The Sabres kept the pressure on as Jeff Skinner tried a deke in tight but Nedeljkovic stood his ground and kept the game at zeroes.
The game was all Sabres at this point with JJ Peterka taking a smooth pass from centremen Rasmus Asplund to break in on Nedeljkovic, who again made a nice save to keep the Wings alive.
The Sabres eventually got a power play chance on a Carter Rowney tripping call. Not much doing for the Sabres power play unit, but the Sabres’ continued to dictate the play with future Latvian Olympian Zemgus Girgensons ringing a deflected shot off the pipe.
Casey Mittelstadt had one of the best chances of the period for the blue and gold when a smooth Skinner pass sent Vinnie Hinostroza and Mittelstadt in on a 2 on 1, Hinostroza got the puck to Mittelstadt who rifled a wrist shot wide.
The horn sounded with the Sabres outshooting the Wings 17-6 in what was a one-sided period. Sabres pressed hard but Nedeljkovic kept the Wings in this one and both teams took a donut into the locker room.
The Sabres picked up right where they left off, firing the first 6 shots of the period before JJ Peterka finally found the twine.
The Sabres moved the puck around the boards nicely until big Tage Thompson made a strong move to the center of the Wing’s zone and fired a shot that was redirected by Peterka, past Nedeljkovic, for the 1-0 lead.
The Sabres continued to get the better of the play until the Red Wings finally counter punched to tie things up. Hinostroza, who was flying the whole game, had his pocket picked deep in the Sabres zone by Red Wings centre Mitchell Stephens. Stephens quickly dished the puck to Wings veteran Sam Gagner who lasered a shot by Anderson to tie the game at 1.
Late in the period, Mittelstadt was called for slashing so the Sabres penalty kill went to work.
Nedeljkovic, who was so solid up to this point, came out of his net to collect the puck only to have an attempted pass deflect off Red Wings rookie defender Moritz Seider’s skate. The puck caromed right to Girgensons who did not miss the empty net. Sabres up 2-1.
That’s exactly how the period ended. The shot total to this point was 31-15 in favor of the Sabres. The blue and gold were really in control of this one but for Nedeljkovic, who showed why Detroit traded a 3rd round pick and Jonathan Bernier for him this past summer.
The Sabres killed off the rest of Mittelstadt’s infraction to open the period. The game moved into a lull with the Red Wings tightening things up and keeping the Sabres at bay. The Red Wings finally put some pressure on Anderson when Wings defenseman Marc Staal hurled a point shot that Anderson saved through traffic. The Sabres answered with big man John Hayden, driving hard to the net on a strong forehand move before being denied by Nedeljkovic.
The tight checking continued all the way until the Wings pulled Nedeljkovic at the 2:08 mark of the 3rd period . The Sabres held off the Red Wings until Hinostroza, who had a strong overall game, scored on the empty cage to make it 3-1.
FINAL SCORE: Sabres: 3 – Red Wings: 1
Next up, the Sabres play for keeps. Buffalo hosts the Montreal Canadiens on October 14th to open up the 2021-22 regular season. Can’t wait!