Wings whiff on chance to lock down playoff spot

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Bruins center Frank Vatrano (72) checks Red Wings center Luke Glendening (41) to the ice in the first period.

Boston – This playoff chase for the Red Wings will go right down to the very end.

After a spirited victory the night before at home against Philadelphia, the Red Wings didn’t have the same level of intensity Thursday in Boston.

The result, against a hungry Bruins team, was predictable, a 5-2 loss to Boston that left the playoff picture in a mad scramble heading into the weekend.

The Bruins scored two goals in the first 2 minutes 44 seconds of the game, within 1:19 of each other, and kept the Red Wings at bay the rest of the evening.

BOX SCORE: Bruins 5, Red Wings 2

“Playing catch up hockey is a tough way to play in this league,” said goalie Jimmy Howard, who stopped 21 shots and was pulled in the third period. “We know it’s in our control. We have to go into New York and win a hokcey game and we can do that.”

Alexey Marchenko and Andreas Athanasiou scored the Red Wings goals, who saw their three-game win streak end.

The Red Wings play the Rangers Saturday at Madison Square Garden (12:30 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit) in essentially a do-or-die game.

“We put ourselves in a position (Wednesday) by winning a game to control our own destiny,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “So let’s go win a hockey game Saturday.”

David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Torey Krug (power play), Lee Stempniak and Loui Eriksson scored for the Bruins (41-30-9).

Another potential tough loss for the Red Wings is Justin Abdelkader (lower body) left midway in the third period and didn’t return to the game.

Blashill said Abdelkader was being evaluated and more would be known Friday.

Wojo: Wings must show they can withstand tension again

So what does this mean for the playoff picture?

Both the Red Wings and Bruins now have 93 points, with Philadelphia at 92 (the Flyers lost in overtime Thursday to Toronto).

If the Red Wings win in regulation or overtime against the Rangers, they’re in the playoffs as the third place team in Atlantic Division and play Tampa Bay, a rematch of last season’s opening round Eastern Conference series.

“No other thoughts or distractions, just or own focus,” said forward Brad Richards of the Red Wings’ focus for Saturday. “Go out and play hockey and no scoreboard watching.”

If the Red Wings lose, they can still make the playoffs as the third place team in the Atlantic.

If the Red Wings and Boston both lose Saturday, the Red Wings clinch the automatic third place spot in Atlantic Division.

If the Red Wings lose Saturday and Boston wins, the Red Wings can be the wild-card team if Philadelphia loses both of its two games this weekend.

The Bruins took charge early in this game, the Red Wings sleepwalking through the opening three minutes.

Pastrnak got behind a defenseman Mike Green at the blue line, got a long pass from John-Michael Liles (Michigan State), and went in alone on Howard, sliding a backhand through at 1:25.

With the Red Wings still reeling, the Bruins capitalized again.

Krug (Livonia) found Marchand open in the dot and Marchand one-timed a shot past Howard to make it 2-0 just 2:44 into the game.

“Our guys had a good mindset, Pastrnak got behind us there in the one – it shouldn’t happen, but it happened – then they get a backdoor goal and you’re digging yourself out right way,” Blashill said. “We made a couple of errors there and now you’re down 2-0, and that’s a hard way to start a hockey game.”

Krug made it 3-0 on the power play in the second period, scoring his fourth goal (and first in 42 games) on a point shot past a screened Howard.

The Red Wings cut it to 3-1 on Marchenko’s goal, a shot that caromed off a body, or two, in front of goalie Tuukka Rask.

But the Bruins held firm to close out the second period, then exploded for two quick goals in the first 45 seconds to end any doubt.

“They jumped on us from the start and kept coming,” Howard said. “You knew they’d clamp down and they definitely did that.”

Blashill said he pulled Howard to give Mrazek some work and rest Howard.

How the Red Wings can make the playoffs

There are two spots left to be claimed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and only three teams that can make it -- the Red Wings, Bruins and Flyers. The Wings (93 points) and Bruins (93) have one game left, the Flyers (92) have two.

The Wings' last game is Saturday in New York against the Rangers. Here's how the Wings can make the playoffs:

* If the Red Wings win in regulation or overtime, they’re in the playoffs as the third-place team in Atlantic Division and play Tampa Bay.

* If the Red Wings win in a shootout, Boston would have to lose Saturday.

* If the Red Wings and Boston both lose Saturday, the Red Wings clinch third place in Atlantic Division (the Red Wings have more regulation/overtime victories than Boston).

* If the Red Wings lose Saturday and Boston wins, the Red Wings can be the wild-card team if Philadelphia gets no more than one point in its two games this weekend.

REMAINING GAMES

Detroit (93 points, tied for third in Atlantic and tied for second in wild card): at NY Rangers Saturday.

Boston (93 points, tied for third in Atlantic and tied for second in wild card): Ottawa Saturday.

Philadelphia (92 points, third in wild card): Pittsburgh Saturday, at N.Y. Islanders Sunday.