Wings' win streak ends in shoddy loss to Bruins
Detroit — The Red Wings lost their competitive edge against the Bruins Saturday, playing poorly in a 1-0 loss that broke their six-game winning streak despite an outstanding 35-save effort by goalie Jimmy Howard.
It was the worst game the Wings played in two weeks, since a 2-1 loss to the Panthers Oct. 15.
That said, the only goal was a source of controversy and perhaps should not have been allowed.
But signs of the Red Wings’ deteriorating play were everywhere.
They were a listless 0-for-4 on the power play, and are suddenly 0-for-17 with the man advantage after a decent start to the season in an area that gave them fits last season.
They won only 36 percent of their faceoffs and gave the puck away 13 times — including an embarrassing eight times in the second period.
Starting without the puck a lot and giving it away a lot turned them into a slow, discombobulated team, after many across the NHL raved about their speed during the winning streak.
The 18 shots the Wings yielded in the second period were the most they allowed in a frame all season.
And when they got shots on net, the Bruins regular goalie, Tuukka Rask, who returned to the lineup after an injury kept him out for three games, was sharp, earning the shutout.
“They were hungrier than us all over the ice, I thought,” Jeff Blashill said after the game.
“As a group, they out-competed us. We should have known better than that, but in the end it wasn’t good enough.”
While Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins’ outstanding center, is among the best in the NHL on faceoffs, as Blashill said, the Red Wings “got cleaned” in the circles.
Zetterberg won seven draws and lost 15. Frans Nielsen was 5-of-11 and Luke Glendening 5-of-9, while Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou and Justin Abdelkader were all 0-of-2.
“It makes it real hard,” Blashill said. “You’re chasing the puck all night.
“And it makes it real hard on specialty teams. I still think we can execute better, but it makes it real hard when they are clearing the puck down the ice.”
Perhaps the best that can be said is the Red Wings got a stinker out of their system.
Howard seemed orphaned at times. But the lonely boy played well, except on the Bruins' only goal when he suddenly strayed from his short-side post and allowed one from an improbable angle by Tim Schaller, his first as a member of the Bruins and third NHL goal.
“It was OK,” Howard said of his game. “You know, I felt good out there.
“On the goal, you know, I thought I took everything away on the short side and somehow he managed to bank it in off the post, off my arm and in.”
Even at that, the Wings issued a coach’s challenge on the play, asserting that it was offsides at their blue line, as the Bruins entered the attacking zone.
The linesmen ruled that the play as called on the ice, onside, was confirmed. It appeared on the replay that a Bruins attacker had one skate over the blue line as the puck crossed it, with his trailing skate off the ice, in the air.
After the game, Blashill was still seeing it that way.
“We felt it was off (side),” Blashill said.
Regardless, Howard has been terrific backing up Petr Mrazek.
His personal shutout streak ended at 156:02, dating back through a 3-0 shutout of the Sharks Oct. 22 and a 2-1 victory over the Rangers Oct. 19, in which Howard brilliantly fended off repeated odd-man rushes by New York.
“Well, I’m just letting the play come to me,” he said. “I’m trying not to be as aggressive as past years and I think it’s allowed me to read the play, and not only read the play but read the shots coming off the guys’ sticks.”
Howard was particularly sharp in stopping several shots on a power play in the second period, with Darren Helm off for delay of game, just before yielding the leaky goal — offside, or not.
While the Wings struggled, it also was true that the Bruins played a tight-checking game, characteristic of their veteran coach Claude Julien. They made it tough on the Red Wings going through the neutral zone and hurried back to launch effective backchecking throughout the course of the game.
That said, the Bruins were hardly tidy themselves on offense. But the Wings could seize no advantage.
“Especially from the beginning, we couldn’t really get anything going — not momentum, at all,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said.
Zetterberg asserted after the 2-1 shootout victory against the Blues Thursday that the team’s play was in decline, to the point that they were courting an end to their winning streak.
He was prophetic.
“Howie was good,” he said. “The PK was good. And then I thought that the longer the game went, the more battles we won and the more chances we got.
“But we’ve got to be better than that.”
Of the moribund power play, which faltered awkwardly Saturday, when asked what is wrong, Zetterberg said simply, “Everything.”
“We couldn’t get in. All of our breakouts were slow. We didn’t win faceoffs. We didn’t get enough pucks on net. (We) didn’t execute passes.
“Winning battles wins you games,” Zetterberg said. “And we didn’t do that tonight.”
The Red Wings have a quick turnaround, as do their stumbling opponents, the Panthers, whom they play at 5 p.m. Sunday, in Joe Louis Arena.
The Panthers lost 3-0 to the Sabres Saturday afternoon in Buffalo.
It was their fifth loss in six games in what their coach, former Red Wings’ player Gerard Gallant, called the low point of their early season.