Andreas Athanasiou sealed the victory by scoring on Detroit’s second shootout opportunity after Jonathan Bernier stopped Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart on Buffalo’s first two attempts.
Bernier finished with 29 saves through overtime and Tyler Bertuzzi also scored in a game the Red Wings rebounded after squandering a 2-0 third-period lead.
By improving to 1-8-1 their past 10 and winning for the first time since a 3-2 shootout victory at Ottawa on Jan. 10, the Red Wings avoided their second 10-game losing streak of the season. Detroit went 0-10-2 during a stretch spanning November and December.
“Whew, finally,” said Larkin, who posted his ninth career two-goal game, and first since a 5-4 overtime victory over Buffalo on March 28.
“Just to come in the room and see smiles and listen to some music,” Larkin said. “Just a total team win. Everybody feels good right now. We've got to keep this going.”
Detroit also ended a nine-game road losing streak dating to a 2-1 win at Montreal on Dec. 14.
The Sabres earned a point when Evan Rodrigues tied it at 3 with 47 seconds remaining. That came some six minutes after his high-sticking penalty led to Bertuzzi’s power-play goal putting Detroit up 3-2.
With Buffalo’s net empty, Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen blocked Trevor Daley’s clearing attempt. The puck bounced into the slot, where Rodrigues gathered it and flipped it into the open right side of the net over Bernier’s out-stretched arms.
The Sabres erased a 2-0 third-period lead when Jimmy Vesey and Scott Wilson - in his first game after being called up from the minors - scored 2:41 apart in the third period to tie the game at 2 with 11:31 remaining.
The effort still wasn't good enough for a Sabres team that dropped to 1-4-1 in its past six.
“We definitely cannot be pleased with losing in penalty shots here today,” coach Ralph Krueger said.
“It's the failed opportunities and the grit that we need to finish on those opportunities is definitely the reason for the loss today,” he added. “It was a good reaction in the third, coming back from two down. It was a good reaction to score 6-on-5 to bring it into overtime under the circumstances. But we shouldn't have been in those circumstances.”
Larkin’s goal in the shootout was similar to the goal he scored to put Detroit up 2-0 in the final second of the first period to cap a 2-on-1 break.
Each time, Larkin sped in from the left wing and cut across the front of the net before backhanding a shot in behind Jonas Johansson, who was making his first career start.
Athanasiou then scored by firing a shot inside the left post.
“We weren't perfect tonight,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said, referring to the near-third-period collapse. “But I thought he effort level was great. It as good to get rewarded for a fairly good process.”
Johansson finished with 18 saves.
The Sabres were booed off the ice after each of the first two periods. Their slump has dispirited a fanbase that’s become familiar with late-season collapses and the team missing the playoffs.
Buffalo (23-23-8) is in jeopardy of extending the NHL’s longest active playoff drought to a ninth season. And the Sabres, in Krueger's first year, spent much of this season vowing this year won’t be a repeat of last season, which Buffalo closed by winning just 16 of its final 57 games.
Just last week, Eichel mentioned the wheels previously falling off before vowing: “That’s not happening here.”
Buffalo instead closed a five-game homestand with just one win.
“We waited too long to turn it on,” Rodrigues said. “We weren't ready. We had our moments but we have to be more consistent. It seems like we're in a bit of a funk here. It's not where we want to be, simple as that.”
Larkin’s first goal 4:23 in ended Detroit’s goal drought at 133:34 following consecutive shutout losses to the New York Rangers and Philadelphia.
The Sabres had a goal disallowed following a coaching challenge 6 1/2 minutes in. Officials ruled Wilson interfered with Bernier when deflecting in Lawrence Pilut’s shot from the left point. Seconds before Pilut’s shot, Wilson parked one foot inside the crease just behind Bernier.
NOTES: Red Wings D Gustav Lindstrom made his NHL debut. ... The game featured teams with a combined 35 wins, one fewer than Washington, which has a league-leading 36. ... Sabres D Rasmus Dahlin missed his second game with an upper-body injury.
Red Wings: At the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.
Sabres: At the New York Rangers on Friday night.
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