Frans Nielsen on the Red Wings-Bruins line brawl The Detroit News
Boston — Frans Nielsen picked a good time to score his first goal of the season.
On an entertaining Saturday night of Original Six hockey — including a mini-line brawl in the second period — Nielsen’s deflection at 11:53 of the third period snapped a 2-2 tie and sent the Wings to a rare 4-2 victory in Boston.
It was Nielsen’s first goal since March 27 last season, as he got his stick on Danny DeKeyser’s shot from the point that trickled past goalie Tuukka Rask.
“It was nice to get it, it was a big one,” Nielsen said of his goal. “We’ve really struggled here lately in this building. It was a big confidence boost to prove to ourselves we can win.”
Gustav Nyquist scored the empty-net goal to make it 4-2.
For the Wings this ended a nine-game regular-season losing streak in Boston, the last victory coming on Oct. 14, 2013.
“It’s been a tough place to play for us,” said goaltender Jimmy Howard, who stopped 38 shots and almost got into his first NHL fight. “To come in here and get two points in regulation, that’s huge for us and a big confidence boost.”
Blashill talks about Luke Witkowski's big hit The Detroit News
The Wings (12-11-3) took a 2-1 lead into the third period, but saw that lead disappear.
Ryan Donato tied it 2-2 for Boston (14-8-4) with a power-play goal at 5:31 of the third period, snapping a shot that beat Howard blocker side.
But the Wings didn’t wilt, Howard made several key saves, and Nielsen’s deflection of DeKeyser’s goal proved to be the winner.
“Frans has played real well since the about the 6-, 7- or 8-game mark, he’s played excellent,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “Good for him to get that goal. It means a lot.”
Now, let’s get to the turning point of this game.
Many felt it was actually a big hit by Luke Witkowski that leveled Boston star forward David Krejci.
Howard on wanting to fight the opposing goalie The Detroit News
Boston’s Joakim Nordstrom came in to defend Krejci and fought Witkowski, but the intensity turned from there.
“That hit raised the temperature of the game, but that’s great, that’s good,” Blashill said. “It was a great hit. We want to make sure we’re physically intimidating. This team (Boston) has been physically intimidating over the years. We want to do some of that.”
Said Tyler Bertuzzi, who would get very involved shortly: “What sparked us was Witter’s hit and Witter’s fight. It was a big hit and that’s something we appreciate on this team. Big blocks, things like that, it’s the little things that we appreciate and that was the big turning point in the game.”
The mini-brawl began two minutes later when Bertuzzi took exception to Boston’s Brad Marchand's hit on Nick Jensen.
Bertuzzi attempted to engage Marchand, who went at it verbally but not physically. Boston’s Colby Cave joined the fracas and crosschecked Bertuzzi — ultimately giving the Wings a power play.
Bertuzzi continued to get Marchand rankled, but Marchand declined and slashed Howard, who was skating to the bench on the delayed penalty to Cave.
“I was going to go to the bench and he (Marchand) slashed Howie and that’s where I kind of needed to step in,” Bertuzzi said. “That’s (the slash) what caused it.”
That triggered both teams to battle between the benches — “All hell broke loose,” said Howard — all while Howard and Rask were jawing at each other and threatening to fight, but not given the chance by officials.
Howard was ready to go, if needed. Though, it being Rask, a friend from back in the minor-league days, Howard was glad nothing escalated too much.
“Even though Tuukka and I are friends, it would have been something,” Howard said. “It goes back to the American League. He’s a great guy. I’ve had a lot of fun along the way (with Rask). I’m kind of happy it didn’t happen.”
Dylan Larkin scored the resulting power-play goal at 17:36, breaking a 1-1 tie. Larkin put in a loose puck on a scramble to the side of Rask.
The fracas seemed to inspire the Wings further, the way they stood up to the Bruins in a rink that hasn’t been kind to the Wings.
“We have a lot of guys with that kind of bite and that kind of character and that’s a good thing,” Blashill said. “We weren’t perfect, they certainly had chances and Howie was excellent, but it’s just something as a team we’re trying to continue to grow.”
Boston opened the scoring with the type of goal that has broken the Wings in Boston before — such as in an 8-2 loss here in October — but didn’t this time.
David Backes backhanded a shot from the sideboards that deflected off Dennis Cholowski’s stick and fluttered over Howard with just 3.8 seconds left in the first period.
But the Wings answered at 5:45 of the second period, when Bertuzzi redirected Mike Green’s shot from the top of the slot, Bertuzzi’s ninth goal.
“That was a tough, a tough break for sure,” Blashill said of Backes’ goal. “A little bit was execution, a little bit it was a bad bounce. (But) we’re not the fragile team like when we came in here (in October).”