DETROIT — The Detroit Red Wings turned a 3-0 lead late in the game into a nail biter.
Luke Glendening’s empty-net goal with three minutes remaining turned out to be the game-winner as Detroit held on for a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres Monday night.
Glendening’s eighth goal of the season gave the Red Wings a 3-0 lead, but then they had to hold on to stay tied with the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Ten seconds after Glendening scored, Zemgus Girgensons tallied for Buffalo. A little over a minute later, Sam Reinhart made it a one-goal game.
“It’s about all we played all game, the last three to five minutes,” Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. “We had a tough time tonight, a tough time getting on the puck, dealing with their execution.”
Said Reinhart: “Unfortunately, it took too long … But no excuse for starting late.”
Before nearly blowing the three-goal lead, Dylan Larkin and Riley Sheahan scored for Detroit (38-27-11), which also is within a point of the third-place Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division.
“I thought we had to be good. I thought we were good for large … obviously, until the very end there,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “I thought we played a good game, we didn’t give them much, didn’t give up many shots, didn’t give up a whole lots of chances. Obviously there’s still corrections we can make with some mistakes. Overall I thought it was good.”
Jimmy Howard made 18 saves, including three after Buffalo made it a one-goal game.
“You’re just trying to be as square as possible, be as quiet as possible. Also at the same time, being as big as possible. You’re trying to do a lot of small movements and not give them anything.”
Larkin’s power-play goal gave Detroit a 1-0 lead with 1:28 left in the first period. He raced to the bottom of the left circle and put the rebound of Henrik Zetterberg’s shot by Johnson and inside the right goal post.
“I think the last game (a 7-2 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Joe Louis Arena Saturday) might have been a little tough for us but it was big to get the first goal tonight,” Larkin said. “I think the second one was an even bigger goal. I think we do have to work on taking the lead all the way to the end and playing a full 60 minutes.”
It was Larkin’s 22nd goal, the most by a Red Wings rookie since Zetterberg had 22 in 2002-03.
Sheahan made it 2-0 9:05 into the second period with a spectacular effort.
He picked up the puck in the corner to Howard’s left, went behind the net, stopped and started in the bottom of the opposite circle, headed up ice, weaving his way through the three zones and beat Johnson with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle.
“I just tried to get up ice and I saw a little bit of room to skate,” Sheahan said. “I kind of just kept going and kept going and made my way through there. I didn’t really mean to do that or have that in mind but I had some room and I got a good shot off so it was good.”
It was Sheahan’s 12th goal of the season and third in three games.
Buffalo forward Evander Kane left the game after the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return.
“He played a handful of shifts with the injury and just wasn’t able to continue,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “He’s day to day right now. I doubt we’ll see him in (Tuesday’s) game (in Pittsburgh).”
NOTES: Detroit G Jimmy Howard, who lost the starting job to Petr Mrazek earlier in the season, started Monday. Since Feb. 12, Mrazek has a 6-6-2 record, a 3.30 goals-against average and an .888 save percentage. Howard was 3-2-1, 2.80 and .911 since mid-February. … Buffalo was without C Tyler Ennis (upper body) and G Robin Lehner (lower body). … Hockey Hall of Famer and Red Wings legend Gordie Howe attended the game and addressed Detroit’s players before the contest. … Sabres assistant coach Dave Barr was with the Red Wings during part of his playing career. … D Alexey Marchenko replaced D Brendan Smith in the Red Wings’ lineup. Smith was a healthy scratch.