Boston — The Red Wings showed a lot of heart in losing Tuesday. One of their mistakes ultimately defeated them.
Afterwards they made it plain: Through 66 games they are long past sick and tired of battling, playing hard and, too often finding a way to beat themselves.
Down by two goals in the first minute, and 4-2 at 3:27 of the second period, in early March, with the playoffs long ago a dwindling dream, the Wings could have given in.
Not these Red Wings. Not this captain.
Disappointing season, new goalie getting ambushed and then not playing well, they simply would not comply — Irish Heritage Night in Boston at the TD Garden, or not.
The Red Wings tied it late in regulation, on a goal by the recently little-used Martin Frk. But they lost 6-5 in overtime, when Brad Marchand scored his third goal of the game.
“We’ve got to come out more ready to compete,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “Then, I thought our guys battled extremely hard to put ourselves in position.
“After we kept getting down, we kept fight back. It shows the character in the room. I mean, Zetterberg was unreal. As a warrior, just unbelievable.”
The winning goal came on yet another mistake, this one by young aspiring players who generally played well Tuesday, and whom Blashill also singled out for lionhearted play.
When Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha failed to grab a loose puck in front of Jimmy Howard on the first shift of overtime, the pesky Marchand ate it up.
“I thought Larkin battled hard. I thought Mantha battled hard,” Blashill said. “I thought we had guys who really dug in. And we just kept digging and digging and digging.
“And then, in the end, we’ve got to grow up. We can’t give away those goals like that. It’s crazy. The puck’s sitting there. It should have been our puck, and we want to go on offense before we have the puck.
“So, we’ve got to learn from those situations.”
It all started, so badly, way before the bad ending, with a lot of good work and resolve in between.
A hockey game unfolded as a saga.
Blashill said he would play Jared Coreau, the goalie's first NHL action of the season, after nearly three weeks off since his last start for Grand Rapids.
After the morning skate, Coreau said, “I’m ready. I’m ready as I’ve ever been.”
He was not.
Coreau gave up two goals on the Bruins’ first two shots in the first 58 seconds. It was the fourth time in Bruins history, 94 years, that they managed two goals in the first minute.
And the Bruins scored again in the first, before Coreau gave up a bad goal early in the second: With Marchand in a familiar spot, at an extreme angle on the right wing, Coreau failed to protect the short side.
Protect? He was not near the post.
“Not good enough,” Coreau said. “I don’t really need to say much more than that, it’s just not good enough.”
He refused to shelter himself in the excuse of inactivity.
“I know what the role is,” he said of his responsibilities as a backup goalie.
With the Bruins leading, 4-2, Blashill replaced Coreau with Howard, at 3:27 of the second period, after the Marchand goal.
The Bruins scored on their first two shots, with goals by Torey Krug (Royal Oak, Michigan State) and Jake DeBrusk. But the Red Wings scored on their first, too, to make it 2-1.
Frans Nielsen scored on the power play, and Zetterberg fed him nicely.
It was Zetterberg’s 35th assist of the season.
Then, things were really looking up for Coreau and the Red Wings when Mike Green pinched perfectly and scored a short-side goal on Anton Khudobin, to tie the score at 7:53 of the first.
It was Green’s seventh goal of the season, as the Red Wings continued a recent trend of getting some scoring punch from their defense.
But the lead did not last long, with Krug getting his second goal of the game, again on the power play, with a well-timed pinch, for which the penalty killing Wings could not account.
Before the period ended, Nielsen was injured and did not return. David Backes found him against the sideboards and delivered a check well after the play had moved on.
Nielsen crumbled to the ice.
The Red Wings players thought it a cheap shot to the head, but the referees saw only a minor penalty for roughing.
At 4:45 of the second, Jonathan Ericsson tried to make Backes pay for Nielsen and did a fine job in a fight before Backes, a career tough guy, came back late in the bout.
Despite the circumstances of the first 24 minutes of the game, the Red Wings outshot the Bruins 14-10 in the second period.
Scoring chances were even at 13 by the end of the period.
The Wings got two goals from Mantha in the frame.
On the first, he showed perseverance, returning to the slot after Khudobin had just robbed him, gaining control of the puck and backhanding it by the goalie.
On the second, Mantha showed everything for which the Red Wings and their fans hope from him.
With Zdeno Chara turned and chasing the puck into his own end, Mantha bent his long legs and the knees, as Blashill urges him to do, and caught Chara.
Placing his right shoulder in front of the defenseman, he managed to outmuscle Chara to the puck in a titanic puck battle on the fly.
Mantha skated in with it, and, as is his tendency, he made no mistake.
Afterwards, more focused on the mistake by the Red Wings in overtime, to which he contributed, Mantha expressed disappointment.
“We battled back. We came in (to the dressing room) after the first period, and we knew we wanted to battle back and we were able to it," he said.
“So, that is the character we have in this room. Just a silly mistake in OT there.”
Then in the third period, with the referees suddenly sending players to the penalty box willy-nilly, the Red Wings scored immediately after the expiration of a power play.
Mantha got the puck to Tyler Bertuzzi, who maneuvered adroitly behind the net, and stayed hard on the puck through some defenders, before feeding Martin Frk in front.
Playing in just his third game in eight, after declining ice time before that, Frk beat Khudobin to improbably tie the score.
But, once again, for the 2017-18 Red Wings, there was not storybook ending.
“Not good enough in the first, everyone,” Zetterberg said, of the team. “They won all the battles. It’s something that we’ve seen before, that we have been better at, and now we take a step backwards again.”
Asked about fighting back, the captain said. “Yeah, we’ve seen that before, the last two periods we played well. We battle back, score five goals and then it goes into overtime.
“I really don’t know what to say.”