The Red Wings ran into a brick wall in the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night, losing 3-2 over the course of a game that looked and felt closer than it really was.
Tuukka Rask stopped 15 of 16 3rd period shots as the Wings rallied from a 3-1 deficit over the course of a fast and furious second-half-of-the-period attempt to rally…
But the Wings dug a hole that was too deep to get out of against a Bruins team that has won 13 of the past 15 meetings against Detroit. Detroit came out flat, got worse, scored the game’s first goal, and then gave up 2 2nd period markers, which was really enough for the Bruins to build an unassailable lead that they added to in the third period.
Ultimately, as the Associated Press’s recap notes, Boston’s pulling away from the pack, and the Red Wings aren’t even good enough to be part of “the pack”:
Boston is 17-1-4 in its last 22 games and only three points behind NHL-leading Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division. The Red Wings never mounted much sustained pressure on goalie Tuukka Rask, who improved to 19-0-2 in his last 21 games.
Martin Frk scored a power-play goal in the second for Detroit, but the Bruins quickly wiped out that lead later in the period. Danton Heinen scored with 11:39 remaining in the third to put Boston up by two.
With their goalie pulled, the Red Wings moved within one when Frans Nielsen scored with 1:24 to play, but Boston held on.
NBCS Boston’s Joe Haggerty put things bluntly in a recap from afar:
It doesn’t matter where they are or who they are playing, the winning just keeps on continuing for the Boston Bruins.
This time it was a by-the-numbers 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesar’s Arena that gives the Black and Gold a ridiculous 11-1-2 record since the beginning of January.
The Red Wings actually got on the board first with Martin Frk connecting on a PP one-timer from the circle that found a hole on Tuukka Rask at the net.
But that was really it for the Red Wings as the Bruins controlled play even if they weren’t quite dominant against a Detroit team with nothing to play for at this point. The fourth line stepped up in the second period in the form of Sean Kuraly stepping into a shot and firing one home off a slick feed from Matt Grzelcyk.
David Krejci gave the Bruins the lead a couple of minutes later in the second period when he hammered home a loose puck rebound that bounced to him after a Ryan Spooner shot on net. That score was the crowning achievement in this game for a very solid night for the Boston second line with Krejci, Spooner and Jake DeBrusk all getting their chances before the three of them teamed together for the game-winning goal.
The Bruins finally got the insurance marker midway through the third period as an aggressive Austin Czarnik fore-check turned into a Danton Heinen snipe to the top corner of the net. It capped off a two-point night for the Bruins rookie winger and gives Heinen an extremely solid 12 goals and 37 points on the season.
Among Haggerty’s notes:
BY THE NUMBERS: 11-1-2 – the Bruins record over the 14 games that they’ve played since the beginning of January as the beat just keeps going on for the Black and Gold.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “Lately I think our starts have gotten better, but it doesn’t matter if we go down a goal. We just keep plugging away and play our game, and it’s paid off.” –Tuukka Rask, who improved to 19-0-2 with a 1.60 goals against average and a .942 save percentage with his 26-save effort.
WEEI’s Ty Anderson noted that the Bruins will probably continue to climb the Atlantic Division standings…
The victory also extended the B’s mastery of their own division, as this was the B’s 12th straight victory over an Atlantic Division opponent, pushing them to 12-1-2 on the year. The Bruins have been a straight-up nightmare for the woeful Atlantic, too, averaging nearly 3.5 goals per game, and clicking at over 28 percent on the power play. 13 of their final 31 games, of course, will come against Atlantic opponents.
The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa praised Danton Heinen’s play as Heinen has moonlighted on Patrice Bergeron’s wing while Brad Marchand has been suspended…
In the second period, after getting to a loose puck, Heinen whacked a backhander into open space that he knew David Pastrnak was about to occupy. Seconds later, after receiving Pastrnak’s cross-ice pass, Sean Kuraly rifled a puck past Jimmy Howard at 12:11 to tie the score at 1-1.
In the third, it was Heinen’s turn to find the back of the net. Heinen put the Bruins up, 3-1, when he received a pass from Kuraly and rocketed a riser over Howard’s blocker at 8:21. Heinen’s insurance goal gave the Bruins the breathing room they would need when Frans Nielsen jammed home a six-on-five strike with 1:24 remaining in regulation.
“It’s a good problem to have when guys can go up and fill in,” said coach Bruce Cassidy, who pegged Heinen as Marchand’s full-time replacement on Jan. 30 against the Ducks. “The first game against Anaheim, we had a little bit of trouble. It’s going to happen. But since then, he’s done a real good job up there. We moved Schalls in for a pocket of time, Jake here and there. It’s a good spot to be in. He relishes the opportunity when it’s there. He’s done a good job.”
Heinen will most likely return to the third line with Riley Nash and David Backes against the Rangers. He will go back to his usual spot with his chest puffed out a bit more than usual. Receiving top-line duty and doing well with it would give any player extra jump.
“I had a lot of fun on that line,” Heinen said. “Going back to the other line, just try and do the same things. Wherever they put me, I’m playing with great players up and down the lineup. It was definitely fun playing with those guys. Excited to see Marshy back.”
And Tuukka Rask suggested that the Bruins are in cruise control while speaking with the Boston Herald’s Rich Thompson:
“The whole year, I think our focus has been on our game and how we want to play the game and not really worry about who we are playing against,” said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who finished with 26 saves and upped his unbeaten streak to 21 games (19-0-2). “As long as we are happy with our game, the wins will keep coming, and I think the way we practice it starts there. We push the pace there, and it transfers to games, and lately our starts have gotten better, and when we got down a goal, we just kept plugging.”
NHL.com’s Dave Hogg’s recap will serve as the pivot point between the Bruins and Red Wings’ perspectives:
Detroit (21-23-8) lost its second straight and has scored two or fewer goals in nine of its past 12 games. Martin Frk and Frans Nielsen scored, and Jimmy Howard made 28 saves in his fifth straight loss.
“We’ve had 20 guys going hard in the last few games, but tonight we had a handful of guys going hard,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “Did it surprise me? Yeah, for sure. We weren’t good for two periods, and then we were good in the third. The reality is that we can’t skill our way to wins. We have to outwork the other team every night.”
Heinen nearly gave Boston the lead at 6:09 of the first period, beating Howard with a wrist shot that hit the post.
Frk made it 1-0 with a power-play goal at 2:08 of the second period, beating Rask from the left face-off circle for his ninth goal.
Kuraly tied the game at 1-1 at 12:11, one-timing Pastrnak’s pass over Howard’s blocker for his fourth goal.
“That’s exactly the kind of hockey we preach,” Cassidy said. “He got back to the blue line to fill in for a defenseman, he kept the puck alive and he got rewarded with a goal. That’s a Bergeron special, and our young guys are learning from him.”
Blashill and the Red Wings were upset with themselves after the game, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan noted:
After the two victories, the Red Wings crept to within six points of a wild-card playoff spot and at least renewed some optimism. But the two losses have put them eight points out, with four teams to climb before they tie Columbus for the final wild-card spot, and it’s looking increasingly grim.
“It’s frustrating and I really don’t have an answer,” said Frans Nielsen, whose late goal cut the Boston lead to 3-2. “But it’s going to be too late if we don’t figure it out.”
Boston’s Sean Kuraly and David Krejci scored second-period goals, erasing a 1-0 Red Wings lead, and Danton Heinen added insurance in the third period for the Bruins.
Martin Frk (power play) and Nielsen scored for the Red Wings (21-23-8, 50 points).
What bothered the Red Wings most was the lack of urgency they showed early in such an important game.
“On the road we had 20 guys going hard,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Tonight we had a handful of guys going hard. We weren’t good enough. We didn’t have enough guys going hard. We have to be better than that. You can’t pretend your way into it. You have to be way more ready to compete.”
Coach Blashill had some not-so-nice things to say about his young players–and understandably so, as CBS Detroit’s Will Burtchfield noted:
Blashill criticized his team for a lack of effort. He said there were only “a handful of guys going hard.” In the case of Bertuzzi and Athanasiou, this forced Blashill into doing something he’d rather avoid.
“I want these young guys to grow, so I don’t want to hide them. But they have to play better than that,” Blashill said.
He paused a few seconds before adding in frustration, “You guys watched, right?”
The 22-year-old Bertuzzi, who entered the game averaging 15:11 of ice time, played a season-low 7:54. The 23-year-old Athanasiou, who came in averaging 16:08, got 10:57. Bertuzzi, who not long ago was getting top-six minutes, played just one shift in the third.
As a group, the Wings were a step behind for the first two periods. They had just 12 shots on goal through 40 minutes, compared to 24 for the Bruins. It was a far cry from the team that had played well in the three games prior. Blashill admitted he was surprised.
“We have to be better than that,” he said. “You can’t kind of pretend your way into it, you have to be way more ready to compete. … It’s a learning process, for sure, for some young guys. It’s an everyday league, boy. It’s an everyday league.”
Blashill wasn’t wrong. Andreas Athanasiou was invisible, as was Tyler Bertuzzi. Dylan Larkin had a team-high 3 giveaways. Anthony Mantha got into his endless-blind-pass-behind-him habits again…
But the Red Wings weren’t great as a team, either. Nick Jensen, who I felt was the Wings’ best defenseman, was -3, as was Danny DeKeyser, who was less than great. Nyquist and Tatar weren’t up to snuff, and, as DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji noted, Frans Nielsen of all people was the catalyst for the comeback that wasn’t:
Frans Nielsen: On a night when most Red Wings were searching for their game, Nielsen provided the Wings with a spark, especially in the third period when he pulled Detroit within one by scoring his 12th goal of the season. It was Nielsen’s fourth point (1-3-4) in his last four games. He finished the contest with a goal and was plus-1 in 16:16 of ice time. Nielsen also won 7-of-13 face-offs, but it’s a chance he had to tie the game he will remember. Right after he scored to make 3-2, there was a mad scramble in front of Rask. The puck made its way to Nielsen, who appeared to have a wide-open net. He fanned on the shot and a Bruins defender quickly pushed the puck underneath Rask. It was a missed opportunity and the Wings’ best chance to tie the score and send the game into overtime.
Quotable: “I didn’t see. I just saw the puck there, I just fanned on it. I know it was bouncing right there, I think it went down on the heel or something. I did see the D dive in but I’m not sure who covered it. It’s tough to figure out. I mean, we’re coming back from some really good games, we were shooting pucks, we were competing, we were tough to play against and then came out tonight and no response at all. It’s just frustrating and it’s been like that for a long time. Like I said, it’s frustrating. I really don’t have an answer. You’re right, soon it’s going to be too late if we don’t figure it out. If we play two good games again now and we stand here and sometime next week you’re asking the same question, it’s going to be too late. We have to figure it out now.” – Nielsen
Also of note from Wakiji:
Quotable II: “I don’t think we were good enough from the start. We were a little bit in between the whole first period. I don’t know why the reason for that, but it saying that I don’t think they had much either in the first. It was kind of a slow start. We worked ourselves into the game. It was nice to see we got one on the power play. Their third goal is a tough one. I thought we created a lot before and then they get one chance and it’s in the net. That’s tough. I thought we battled hard in the end and came up short.” – Zetterberg
The start wasn’t great, the middle was better, and before the promising end, the Wings gave up enough goals to lose. That’s hard to stomach, and it’s clear that it’s hard to stomach for the players and coach.
To his credit, I liked when The Athletic’s Craig Custance asked Blashill whether his message has to change as the playoffs fade from view. Blashill said that his only focus was doing his best to win on Friday–or something close to that–and it was a reminder that, to the players and coach, at least, this is still a day-to-day business.
At least outwardly.
As the coach said to the Associated Press’s Noah Trister…
“We’re not going to skill our way to wins,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “We have to outwork the other team every night, and we’ve just got to decide that we’re going to be special that way.”
That’s at least true for most of the Wings’ remaining opponents–you have to out-work ’em–and the Wings have a lot of work ahead of them over the course of a season that still has 30 games to go.
Highlights: NHL.com posted a 3:58 highlight clip…
NESN posted coach Bruce Cassidy’s post-game interview with Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley;
MLive’s Ansar Khan posted clips of Martin Frk…
Photos: The Free Press posted a 12-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 29-image gallery;
ESPN posted a 46-image gallery;
Here’s the Game Summary…
And the Event Summary:
The final shot attempts were 55-50 Boston.
Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: As the Boston Herald’s Rich Thompson noted, Wings coach Jeff Blashill believes that Patrice Bergeron is an excellent player…
“Bergeron, for me, has probably been the best player in the league for the season up to now,” said Blashill, prior to Tuesday night’s game between the Bruins and Red Wings. “There are others like (Tampa Bay’s Nikita) Kucherov that you could make arguments for, but I think he has had as big an impact on winning as anyone in the league.”
And he serves as a role model for Dylan Larkin, as Blashill and Larkin told CBS Detroit’s Will Burtchfield:
“I think Larks has worked real hard at becoming a give-and-go player, and certainly I think that’s shown in his assists. I thought Larks was a way better passer than people gave him credit for a year ago. A lot of people didn’t know if he had the same vision, but I think he does,” Blashill said.
Larkin has 30 assists this season, already smashing his previous career high of 22. The goals haven’t come the way he’d like — he has eight in 51 games — but there’s really no doubt he’s been Detroit’s most dynamic offensive player.
In fact, Larkin’s one of just four forwards on the team with positive possession metrics, and he’s the only one among them starting the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone. That’s Bergeron-esque.
It’s highly encouraging for the Red Wings, too. After deploying Larkin in mostly sheltered situations for the first two years of his career, Blashill has given him more minutes against tougher competition this season. And Larkin has responded by playing the best hockey of his career.
And Blashill said this about Zdeno Chara, as noted by the Boston Herald’s Rich Thompson:
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara played his 1,400th NHL game in the B’s 4-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. Blashill favorably compared Chara to former Red Wings Hall of Fame blueliner Nicklas Lidstrom, a seven-time Norris Trophy winner and 12-time All-Star who played in 1,564 NHL games spanning 20 seasons in Detroit.
“I was here when Nick Lidstrom played his 1,500th,” he said. “And they are similar-type players in the sense of the impact they have had on their teams over a long period of time. They are two of the best players to play that position.”