Vanek spent nine-plus seasons in Buffalo before being dealt to the New York Islanders in October 2013 in what began as the Sabres purge of aging, high-priced players. He played the next two seasons in Minnesota before his contract was bought out by the Wild. The 11-time 20-goal scorer then signed with the Red Wings last summer.
"Once they booed me, I figured I had to show them the move they've seen before," Vanek said. "Yeah, obviously, I wanted to score for our team. But once that happened, I wanted to score even more."
"Well it's a big deal to get two points," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "When you haven't had enough points, you've got to find a way to win, and sometimes it's not as pretty as you want it to be and there's moments where it wasn't pretty, but we found a way to two points."
After 36 scoreless minutes, the Red Wings went ahead when Nyquist found the back of the net following a spinning pass from Vanek. The goal was Nyquist's team-leading fourth of the season.
Buffalo tied it 1:42 into the third when Gionta stuffed a rebound behind goalie Jimmy Howard. Detroit challenged, but it stood as called.
The teams traded scoring chances in the 3-on-3 overtime period. Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen had two scoring opportunities but was twice turned away by Howard, who stopped 32 shots for the Red Wings and turned away two of the Sabres' three shootout attempts.
After scoring four goals against the Flames on Monday, the Sabres scored just one in regulation, marking the 11th time this season they have scored one or fewer goals in regulation. They have failed to score at least two regulation goals in eight of their last 11 games.
"It's frustrating being that close," Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly said. "The issue is scoring goals. I thought throughout the lineup guys were playing very well tonight. It's up top, it's myself. I got to find a way to do something, to put one away."
Meanwhile, the Sabres are 1/3 in shootouts, and Lehner, who made 23 saves, still has not stopped a shot in a shootout this season.
O'Reilly returned after missing five games with an oblique injury. ... Sabres C Jack Eichel skated with the team Wednesday for the first time since injuring his ankle in practice on Oct. 12, a day before Buffalo's season opener. Coach Dan Bylsma did not provide a timetable for his return. ... Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula got some good news about their NFL team, the Buffalo Bills. WR Sammy Watkins returned to practice for the first time since going on injured reserve with a foot injury. Buffalo got two of its biggest stars back Wednesday, but which is more important? "Well Sammy Watkins, for me," Bills coach Rex Ryan said. "As much as I love Jack Eichel, he's not paying any bills for me. Technically, (Eichel) is paying for somebody else in the organization though, isn't he? But I think, (with) my season tickets -- I'd like to see Eichel play. It's a great question. Obviously, Sammy is such a great talent for us, but man the Sabres need scoring. Tough call." ... Red Wings F Tomas Jurco was assigned to Grand Rapids, Detroit's AHL affiliate, for conditioning. He's missed every game this season while recovering from offseason back surgery but is inching closer to a return.
Red Wings: Play at New Jersey on Friday night.
Sabres: Play at Washington on Friday night.