BUFFALO - Mired in their worst slump in 15 years, the Detroit Red Wings were determined to end the misery.
Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula each had a goal and assist, and Dominik Hasek made 22 saves against his former team in Detroit's 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres last night.
It may have been only the second win in the last 12 games (2-8-2) for the Red Wings, but it felt like a playoff victory for a struggling team that came in enduring its worst stretch since going 0-9-3 from Oct. 21-Nov. 16, 1993.
"We were waiting for a game like this," Hasek said. "We weren't playing bad, we just couldn't score the goals. Today, we finally scored a few goals and played well defensively. Overall, I think Buffalo didn't have too many chances."
They didn't, especially early on when the Red Wings took 18 shots on net while playing nearly most of the first period in the Sabres' zone.
"We talked a lot about just getting to the net and shooting the puck," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We got off to a good start, and had the puck a lot."
Dallas Drake and Kirk Maltby also scored for the Red Wings, who snapped a four-game slide and pulled five points ahead of the Dallas Stars for the top spot in the Western Conference.
What made the win even that much sweeter for the Red Wings was the absence of Henrik Zetterberg from the scoresheet. It didn't matter that Detroit's leading scorer didn't figure in on any of the scoring, with the grinding line of Drake, Maltby, and Kris Draper picking up with two goals and an assist.
"We need to contribute more to help out," said Maltby, who scored for the first time since Oct. 26. "We've been finding ways to lose games, and we weren't getting the job done. Tonight, we got the lead and finished strong."
Hasek, making his second straight start after being sidelined for nearly three weeks with a hip injury, improved to 5-1-2 in nine career games against the Sabres, the team he developed into a star for from 1992-2001.
Rookie Patrick Kaleta and Jason Pominville scored for the slumping Sabres, who lost for the fourth time in five games (1-3-1).
Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller finished with 35 saves.
"We have to get better," he said. "There's no excuses. Every last guy has to be smarter and better."
Kaleta opened the scoring just under three minutes in when he sneaked a wrist shot from the slot that got past Hasek.
But the Red Wings gained control with three unanswered goals that bridged the first and second periods, with Drake's third of the year at 11:56 of the first sparking the spurt.
Filppula made it 2-1 with a power-play goal five minutes into the second, converting a nifty tic-tac-toe passing play with Jiri Hudler and Franzen.
Franzen then pushed Detroit's lead to 3-1 just over nine minutes later with his 13th.
Pominville's power-play goal - his 20th overall - 3:12 into the third made it 3-2. Maltby capped the scoring with his fourth with 4:08 remaining in regulation.
Oilers 4, Blue Jackets 3
EDMONTON - Ales Hemsky scored the only goal of the shootout as Edmonton won its fourth consecutive game. Edmonton extended its NHL record for most shootout wins in a season to 14.
Hemsky, Andrew Cogliano and Steve Staios scored in regulation for Edmonton. Rick Nash, Jason Chimera and Dick Tarnstrom scored for Columbus.
Hemsky, the last of Edmonton's shooters in the shootout, beat goalie Pascal Leclaire with a forehand and Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon made it stand with a left pad save on Gilbert Brule to end the game.
PENGUINS 3, THRASHERS 2
PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie defenseman Kris Letang had the only goal in the shootout and the Penguins rallied after giving away a two-goal lead to beat Atlanta.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 31.
Rangers 5, Flyers 4
NEW YORK - Coming in in relief of the ineffective Henrik Lundqvist, Steve Valiquette stopped 17 of 18 shots through overtime and then was perfect in the shootout for New York.
After Jeff Carter's second goal of the game got the Flyers even at 4 with 8:11 left in regulation, Brendan Shanahan and Nigel Dawes scored in the shootout.
Panthers 1, Islanders 0
UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Craig Anderson stopped 53 shots to earn his first shutout of the season, and David Booth scored in the first period for Florida.
Wade Dubielewicz filled in for Islanders starting goalie Rick DiPietro and stopped 29 shots.
Blackhawks 4, Canucks 1
CHICAGO - Rookie scoring leader Patrick Kane had two goals and an assist to lead Chicago. Andrew Ladd and Patrick Sharp also scored for Chicago. Ryan Kesler scored for Vancouver.
Wild 2, Kings 1
ST. PAUL - Martin Skoula scored with 1:15 left in overtime, and Minnesota gained sole possession of the division lead. Marian Gaborik also scored for the Wild.
Michael Cammalleri scored for the Kings, who lost their fifth straight road game.