Buffalo Sabres defenseman Bowen Byram (4) celebrates his goal with...

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Bowen Byram (4) celebrates his goal with center Dylan Cozens (24) during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday, March 12, 2024, in Buffalo, N.Y. Credit: AP/Jeffrey T. Barnes

BUFFALO, N.Y. — There’s a glimmer of hope growing in Buffalo, and a sudden feeling of dread in Detroit after the Sabres tightened the Eastern Conference playoff race following a 7-3 rout of the Red Wings on Tuesday night.

Suddenly, five points separate the 11th-place Sabres and the New York Islanders, who jumped into the eighth and final playoff spot, percentage points ahead of Detroit, which has dropped six in a row.

“That’s a big two points for us in the standings, so just got to keep chugging along here,” Sabres defenseman Bowen Byram said. “I think you’re always kind of watching (the standings). I think you try to use it as as motivation. ... We’re gonna work as hard as we can and hopefully we can string a few more wins together here.”

Byram, acquired in a trade that sent center Casey Mittelstadt to Colorado last week, scored twice, and Zach Benson had a goal and two assists for Buffalo, which improved to 7-3-1 in its past 11.

Alex Tuch, JJ Peterka, Connor Clifton and Jeff Skinner also scored in an outing the Sabres led 4-1 through the first 15:29 and 7-2 after two periods.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 21 shots to improve to 9-3-1 in his past 13 games.

Lucas Raymond, Jake Walman and Ben Chiarot scored for the Red Wings, who's six-game skid immediately followed a six-game winning streak.

Buffalo Sabres left wing Zach Benson (9) celebrates his goal...

Buffalo Sabres left wing Zach Benson (9) celebrates his goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday, March 12, 2024, in Buffalo, N.Y. Credit: AP/Jeffrey T. Barnes

“We’re running out (of time), yes. Luckily, we’ve had some stretches in our season to keep us in this battle,” coach Derek Lalonde said.

“This group’s responded pretty well throughout. This is a low low. So I think this group will respond well,” he added, looking ahead to returning home to host Arizona on Thursday following a five-game road trip. “Just getting home is probably a little bit of a reset for us.”

Alex Lyon allowed four goals on 13 shots before being yanked for the second time in five starts. James Reimer mopped up and allowed three goals on 26 shots.

The Red Wings’ slump goes beyond the team losing captain Dylan Larkin, who missed his fourth game with a lower-body injury. Poor goaltending has also been a factor with Lyon allowing 21 goals total in his past five starts.

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Bowen Byram (4) celebrates his goal with...

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Bowen Byram (4) celebrates his goal with center Dylan Cozens (24) during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday, March 12, 2024, in Buffalo, N.Y. Credit: AP/Jeffrey T. Barnes

“It's not on the goaltending at all. We left the goalies out to dry,” Lalonde said. “Poor Alex, in the first period, didn’t have much of a chance."

Lyon, however, appeared jumpy and out of position. Tuch opened the scoring on a breakaway 67 seconds in. The 31-year-old goalie wasn’t set when Byram one-timed in a rebound from the top of the left circle to make it 2-0.

The goalie was out of position, and fell while scrambling back into his net as Benson one-timed in Jordan Greenway’s pass at the 13-minute mark. And Lyon was yanked 2:29 later, when Skinner made it 4-1 by driving in alone from the left wing and beating Lyon high on the short side.

“We were buzzing from the start. I thought we did a good job keeping our foot on the pedal there,” said Benson, before refusing to accept talk of the Sabres being out of contention. “We’ve got a skilled group in here so that outside noise really means nothing to us.”

Red Wings center Joe Veleno did not return after being struck in the side of the head by a slap shot from Buffalo’s Jacob Bryson two minutes into the second period. Lalonde said Veleno looked fine following the game, but will be further examined on Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Red Wings: Host Arizona on Thursday night.

Sabres: Host the Islanders on Thursday night.

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