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Where they Stand: After win in Buffalo

Magic number is 1 after the Red Wings' 4-2 victory over the Sabres

Wednesday, 04.9.2014 / 12:31 AM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - DetroitRedWings.com
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Where they Stand: After win in Buffalo

Pavel Datsyuk had his best period since returning from a knee injury last week. The Red Wings' superstar dominated a scoreless first period with several key chances before adding an empty-net goal late in the third period. (Photo by Getty Images)

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Now it’s down to the big one.

One more point and the Red Wings can breathe easier – but they won’t.

Their 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night means the Red Wings are one point shy of clinching a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs for a 23rd straight season.

While the streak is amazing on its own merit, making the playoffs with a roster that has featured 15 minor-leaguers at different times throughout the season is the most gratifying for this Red Wings’ team, who out of necessity has used 37 different players, the highest total since the 1990-91 campaign.

“They’re playing real hard, added some guys tonight,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said of the Sabres, the league’s worst team. “This time of year when you’re out (of the playoff race) you play with house money and just roll.”

And that’s what presented a challenge for the Red Wings. The Sabres have nothing to lose and it showed as they took a 1-0 lead early in the second period on Zemgus Girgensons’ first goal of the game. He later added another goal to cut the Red Wings’ lead to 3-2 at 17:49 of the third period.

Goalie Jimmy Howard made 25 saves in picking up his season-high fourth consecutive victory of the season, while third-period goals by Darren Helm, David Legwand and an empty-netter by Pavel Datsyuk gave the Red Wings their fifth win in the past six games. Defenseman Brendan Smith also scored in the second period.

The win gives the Red Wings 90 points, keeping them a point ahead of Columbus for the first wild-card spot. The Blue Jackets beat Phoenix in overtime Tuesday to keep pace with Detroit. The Jackets’ win, coupled by Tampa Bay’s 3-0 home win over Toronto eliminated the Maple Leafs, who only a month ago had a 10-point lead over the Red Wings.

“It’s a good win because we needed points with everybody playing tonight and everybody climbing and still in the playoffs,” said Datsyuk, who scored his second goal since returning from a knee injury. “Hard to play Buffalo, they want to improve because some guys want to be signed for next year.”

Still, two teams – Washington and idle New Jersey – are chasing the Red Wings, though their chances are on life-support. The Capitals claimed a 4-1 win to stay four points behind Columbus and five points behind Detroit in the Eastern Conference wild-card race.

Both Washington and New Jersey can be bounced from the playoff picture on Wednesday if Detroit gets a point in Pittsburgh and the Blue Jackets pickup two points in their makeup game at Dallas. If this scenario occurs then the only other business in the East will be to determine who finishes as the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds between the Wings and Blue Jackets.

“We’ll try to get that tomorrow,” Johan Franzen said. “We got a few chances here but we just got to keep playing like we’re playing, can’t think too much about that. Keep doing things right and getting ready for the playoffs.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80