BUFFALO – Daniel Alfredsson had a goal and an assist in his first game back from a groin injury to lead the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on Sunday.
Alfredsson scored an empty-net goal in the third period with 48.2 seconds remaining to seal the victory and assisted on Darren Helm's second-period goal that tied the game at 1-1.
"He was real good. He's just smart," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said of Alfredsson. "I don't know if his legs were like he wanted them, but he's smart and knows how to play. That line to me with Helm and [Justin] Abdelkader and him is a real good line because they do a lot of the leg work for him and he can do the thinking for them."
Alfredsson had been out since November 12, a 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, and missed the past five games.
The Red Wings took the lead for good at 11:43 of the third period, when they took advantage of a cross-checking penalty to Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers.
"I don't think it was a real major cross-checking [penalty]," Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. "Detroit was cross-checking us all night. They seemed to get away with it. When you're the winning team, you get those breaks, and when you're struggling you don't."
Johan Franzen scored on the following power play, his sixth goal of the season, when his shot deflected off of a Sabres defender and fluttered over Sabres goalie Ryan Miller and into the net.
"A lot of times it's the bad shots that go in. It was a lollipop, I don't know what it hit, but I floated one in there," Franzen said. "Kind of a lucky shot, but I think we earned it by the way we played."
Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg assisted on Franzen's goal, which was the 700th point in his career.
The Sabres got out to an early lead in the first when Cody Hodgson scored his eighth of the season at 7:47 of the first period. Sabres forward Drew Stafford set it up, stealing the puck from Helm in the Detroit zone. Stafford passed it Hodgson, who was wide open and slipped the puck past Red Wings goalie Jonas Gustavsson.
"I thought in the first period we came out really strong, and then we let them take over the period," Myers said. "It just seems like in our game right now we're inconsistent with our compete level. We're really going to have to focus on trying, no matter what the situation is, playing the same way. It seems like we're a little bit off and on right now."
Helm tied it when he scored his fifth goal in 11 games just 30 seconds into the second period. Helm put a spinning backhand shot past Miller after receiving a pass from behind the net from Alfredsson.
"It's nice to see the puck go in every once in a while," Helm said. "Just got to continue to stick to the basics and kind of get my game back where I need it to be. It seems like pucks are finding me and going in the back of the net."
At 9:39 of the second, Sabres captain Steve Ott was hooked from behind by Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot, but Gustavsson came up with the save to preserve the 1-1 tie.
"I didn't actually think it was going to go that way again because that's the way he went when he had the first opportunity there," Gusatavsson said of Ott's attempt. "He did and I just tried to be patient and follow and I'm lucky enough he didn't score."
The Red Wings outshot the Sabres 34-22. Miller made 31 saves for Buffalo and Gustavsson had 21 for Detroit.
The Sabres have lost four in a row and host the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.
"You got to make it count in this League," Miller said. "You can't just be satisfied with a little glimmer of what we feel is the right way to play. We have to not let teams back in the game."
The win for the Red Wings was their second in their past 10 games. They'll host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.
"Hopefully we can get on a win streak here,” Abdelkader said. "It's been tough going, especially at home for us, but we've got to find a way to get points on the road here, so it's been big."