ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
BUFFALO -- With pinpoint passing and precision, the Detroit Red Wings displayed why they are one of the hottest teams in the NHL.
Jimmy Howard made 27 saves, and the surging Red Wings stretched their winning streak to seven with a 4-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
Detroit scored three times in the first period, when the Red Wings peppered goalie Jhonas Enroth with 18 shots, and went on to win for the 11th time in 13 games. The only losses came on a West Coast swing that helped them change their ways.
"We made a decision when we went out west not to be a mentally soft team," Howard said. "We want to be mentally tough. This game is full of mistakes, so it's how you respond after making them. We've gotten a lot mentally tougher since then."
The Red Wings were particularly strong in the second period when they killed three straight penalties and maintained a 3-0 lead.
"They had some opportunities to get back into the game in the second and get a goal," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "But Jimmy really stepped up for us."
Jakub Kindl, Johan Franzen, and Valtteri Filppula scored the first-period goals for Detroit (16-7-1), which last won seven in a row in March 2010. Pavel Datsyuk pushed the lead to 4-1 by scoring into an empty net with 1:17 left.
"We feel we have a good team when we play with tempo and we play right," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We have a lot of good players with a lot of experience, and have a good calmness about us. We don't get too high or too low, we just keep on playing. We think we have a chance to be a good team, but only time will tell."
Howard, making his 17th straight start, was steady throughout. In the second period he robbed Jason Pominville, who was left alone in the slot. He stopped Nathan Gerbe on a breakaway in the third.
Jochen Hecht spoiled Howard's shutout bid with 6:13 remaining.
"The confidence in the room right now is great," Howard said. "And in hockey, confidence is everything."
NOTES: Red Wings RW Chris Conner played in his first NHL game since April after being recalled Wednesday from Grand Rapids of the AHL. ... Detroit will play 10 of its 15 December games on the road. ... Filppula has five goals during his current five-game point streak.