Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill on the 3-2 loss against the Bruins at Little Caesars Arena. Ted Kulfan
Detroit — That talk about making a run toward the playoffs is becoming a bit more empty with each game.
Two impressive victories coming out of the All-Star break have been followed by two costly losses, Tuesday losing 3-2 to the scorching-hot Boston Bruins.
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.
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill was disappointed with a "handful" of players in Tuesday's 3-2 loss against the Bruins. Ted Kulfan
“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.”
It’s a learning process, said Blashill, especially for the young players on the roster.
“This is what the league is, it’s every single day,” Blashill said. “I want these young guys to grow so I don’t want to hide them. But they have to play better than that.”
Nielsen’s goal, his 12th, with goaltender Jimmy Howard (28 saves) lifted for an extra skater, made it 3-2 with a 1:24 left.
But the Red Wings couldn’t get the equalizer to salvage at least one point, though getting two quality chances on goalie Tuukka Rask (26 saves).
The Bruins (32-11-8, 72 points) have closed to within three points of Tampa for the division — and conference — by winning nine of the last 11 games (9-1-1-).
Boston has won a staggering 22 of their last 29 games (22-3-4).
“Boston had something to say, they’ve done this to a lot of people based on the last month,” Blashill said.
The Red Wings opened the scoring Tuesday with Frk’s goal, ending a 17-game drought.
On the power play, Niklas Kronwall found Frk near the dot and the forward blasted a one-timer that squirted through Rask at 2:08 of the second period.
Red Wings forward Martin Frk talks about a 'sloppy' game against the Bruins on Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena. Ted Kulfan
“It’s hard, they play good defensively, their forwards help their defense,” Frk said. “We were kind of sloppy. They’re in a good stretch right now and we didn’t show up.”
Frk’s goal was the lone Red Wings' highlight in the middle period, as the Bruins gradually asserted themselves.
Howard had no chance on two quick Bruins goals that erased the Red Wings’ lead, and Heinen extended the Bruins’ lead to 3-1 in the third period.
Rask continued his remarkable run of late, having won 19 of his last 21 games (19-0-2). Rask hasn’t lost a game in regulation time since Nov. 26.
“Both of their goalies are like .929 save percentage, and Rask has been extremely hot,” Blashill said. “When you get that kind of goaltending it’s going to help you. It’s always a combination of your team and your goaltender.
“I don’t know that anybody can post those kind of numbers without the team playing great in front of him. Rask is obviously real hot, too.”