Detroit, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - Mikael Samuelsson and Pavel Datsyuk tallied 36 seconds apart in the first period and Jimmy Howard turned away 19-of-20 shots, as the Detroit Red Wings took down the Buffalo Sabres, 2-1, in the season opener for both teams.
The Red Wings have beaten Buffalo in 12 of the last 13 matchups at Joe Louis Arena since 1996.
Howard is coming off the best season of his career, in which he posted a 2.13 goals-against average and his five shutouts tied for the league lead.
"I thought we got off to a great start there," Howard said. "We took a lot of penalties, so we're going to have to clean that up, especially early on in the year here, where it seems like it's more tightly called."
Detroit, which had been a member of the Western Conference since 1993-94, got off to an ideal start as a part of the East following the league's realignment this offseason.
Zemgus Girgensons scored his first career goal for Buffalo, which came up short on all seven of its power-play opportunities. Girgensons, drafted 14th overall in the 2012 draft, lit the lamp in the third period.
Ryan Miller was steady following the two early goals, stopping 32-of-34 shots in the narrow defeat.
"We were right there all night," Miller said. "We got in a position to tie. I think we were improving as the game went on."
Towards the end of Buffalo's first power play early on, Henrik Zetterberg stole the puck in the Sabres' zone and led an odd-man rush short-handed that nearly resulted in the Wings' first goal. Zetterberg slid the puck to a streaking Datsyuk on the 2-on-1, but his deflection saw the puck go just wide of the left post.
Midway through the first, Cory Emmerton sped down the right flank and finessed the puck towards the net for a crashing Samuelsson, who deflected it over Miller's left shoulder and under the post for the game's opening goal at the 12:05 mark.
Less than a minute later, Datsyuk created a bit of magic when he danced through the Sabres' zone and juked past a defender before unleashing a backhand past Miller for a 2-0 edge.
The Wings appeared to have netted their third goal with a second left in a second period power play, but goaltender interference was called on Daniel Cleary, who made contact with Miller as the puck slid past the goal line. Cleary, who tapped the puck en route to goal, would have gotten credit for the score.
Detroit kept the pressure on and moments later, Emmerton earned a penalty shot after getting tripped up by Thomas Vanek. Miller, however, was up to the task, calmly stopping the five-hole attempt.
Ron Rolston, who went 15-11-5 last season after taking over as interim coach of the Sabres following Lindy Ruff's firing, used Buffalo's timeout with a 5- on-3 advantage late in the second. The Sabres came up empty on the ensuing advantage, failing to get off a single shot on goal.
Buffalo finally broke through when Howard went behind his net to clear the puck 12:36 into the third. The Detroit net-minder hesitated just a bit and the disc deflected off of Brian Flynn and landed on Girgensons' waiting stick. A second later, the young Latvian slapped it past Howard, who slid into position late and failed to stop the backhand.
The Sabres pulled Miller with 1:10 remaining but mustered just one shot in the final moments. Christian Ehrhoff got off a blistering slap shot from behind the blue line with three seconds showing on the clock, but Howard gobbled it up and to secure the win.
Fifteen of 18 Detroit skaters registered at least one shot on goal ... Daniel Alfredsson, who spent 17 years in Ottawa and is the Senators' all-time leader in goals and assists, made his Detroit debut, tallying three shots in 16:13 on the ice ... The Wings improved to 20-2-1 with a tie in the last 24 meetings with Buffalo ... Detroit secured 60 percent of the faceoffs.