DETROIT — Perhaps the moment that best summed up the Bruins’ play Wednesday came toward the end of the second period. Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic collided, a hit more directly delivered than most of the 25 the Bruins dealt to the Red Wings.
By that point, the Bruins had allowed four goals and were on their way to their worst loss of the season, 6-1 at Joe Louis Arena.
“It’s not a good night to have that happen, against a team like that,” coach Claude Julien said. “Just everything, everything we did tonight was just disastrous. We dominate on faceoffs, that’s about the only positive we have tonight.”
Despite winning 61 percent of the draws, the Bruins couldn’t make anything happen against a team that had gone 2-3-5 in its last 10 games, and was missing Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi.
And yet, it was the Bruins who looked lost, with a missing defense, an impotent attack, and a leaky goaltender. They were, as Patrice Bergeron said, “flat all game,” adding, “That’s the only thing we could expect out of this game is to get spanked like that.”
“It was pretty much everything that we didn’t want to see out there,” Bergeron said. “We didn’t execute. Yeah, they played a good game, but we pretty much handed it out to them. No disrespect to them, but it wasn’t even close to playing our game. It wasn’t even close to executing. We left [Tuukka Rask] out to dry most of the night. You definitely can’t win playing like that.”
The Bruins, despite their standing at the top of the Eastern Conference, haven’t been playing to their abilities. There have been periods in which they’ve seemed invisible, lines without production, players struggling to find a rhythm. Still, the Bruins were winning.
But they didn’t on Wednesday. Their flaws were front and center, with Bergeron calling it a “wake-up call.”
“Every once in a while during the season you get a game like that,” Julien said. “You always hope as a coach that it kind of wakes your team up a little bit. Maybe a little jolt like that will hopefully help us get better.”
It got bad enough that Julien completely shuffled his lines for the third period, breaking up just about every combination.
“One of those things that it couldn’t get any worse, so you move them around, you hope you get something out of it,” he said. “That was basically all I could do tonight.
“There was nobody that I could say right now that was really good for us tonight. Nobody. Whether it’s for the future or not, [swapping the lines] was just because it couldn’t get any worse.”
It fell apart for the Bruins in a 3:56 stretch of the second period, which Boston started down by one goal and ended down by four. Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg, and Niklas Kronwall scored one after the other, as the Bruins fell into a hole they would never escape.
“We let them play the game that they wanted to play, which is open and kind of the easy game,” Bergeron said. “They have a lot of skills, and we let them skate and let them have those easy passes.”
Tatar beat Chris Kelly and then Matt Bartkowski before swinging around the back of the net. He then slipped the puck in a puck-sized hole between the post and Rask’s skate at 6:05.
At 8:47, Zetterberg beat Rask over the glove just seconds after Gustav Nyquist missed a chance with an open net.
And with Adam McQuaid off for elbowing, the Red Wings made it 4-0 at 10:01 as Kronwall knocked a shot off Rask’s blocker and under the crossbar.
Julien called his timeout.
“What I saw from our team was all of a sudden we started really getting away from our game,” he said. “Everybody’s trying to do everybody else’s job. When you get to that stage, it just gets worse. So I called a timeout, told our guys we had to regain our composure, just to start doing their job and doing it properly.”
It didn’t quite work. Over the remaining 30 minutes, the Bruins allowed two more goals, before Iginla capped the scoring at 17:35 of the third, allowing his team to avoid the shutout. It was the most goals Rask had allowed this season, with four his previous high.
After the game, Julien wasn’t panicking. He reminded the assembled media that the team is in first place, that it hasn’t been all bad. But at least for one night, it was.
“It was one of those nights where you could sense that you weren’t going to get much of a break and you didn’t deserve to get a break,” Julien said. “I think justice was served tonight, in that we didn’t deserve any better than what we got.”