DETROIT — The Red Wings were playing in their building, in front of their passionate fans.
They had the last change, so coach Mike Babcock could establish the matchups he wanted. The team accomplished what it set out to do in Boston in the first two playoff games, which was earn at least a split in enemy territory.
After allowing themselves to be distracted by the Bruins’ extracurricular activity after the whistles in Game 2, which led to a 4-1 loss that tied the series, the Red Wings vowed to return to their own style of play.
Instead, though, the Bruins showed they could play a speed game as well as a physical game.
After getting down, 2-0, in the first period for the second straight contest, the Red Wings couldn’t generate so much as a goal in a 3-0 loss at Joe Louis Arena.
Detroit has scored a grand total of two goals in 180 minutes of play and has allowed seven, so now what?
Stop giving away goals, for starters.
“We [gave] them two goals, anyway you look at it we [gave] them two goals,’’ said Babcock. “I’m not trying to take anything away from [the Bruins] because they played well. They were better than us all night long, but we gave them two goals.’’
The worst goal of the three — by far — was the second one, scored by Jordan Caron at 15:48. Instead of minding the puck, the Red Wings did the hockey equivalent of abandoning ship during a horrendous line change.
With no opposition to speak of, Shawn Thornton raced up the right side, cut in, and tested Jimmy Howard with a backhanded bid. Caron potted the rebound.
The game wasn’t over, but it might as well have been.
The scoresheet listed six Detroit players on the ice for the goal but, aside from the goalie, they weren’t really there.
“It was a terrible line change, we have to be a lot better,’’ said defenseman Niklas Kronwall. “I have to be a lot better and take more responsibility out there. That’s not good enough.
“I didn’t think we played very good from the start. I didn’t think we took care of the puck well enough. We made two mistakes, the first [goal] was a good shot [by Dougie Hamilton], but we could’ve done better in the neutral zone and the second one, it was just a bad change by me. And those are freebies, we can’t afford that.’’
The Bruins were adept at keeping the Red Wings to the outside. Goaltender Tuukka Rask faced 23 shots, but few were of the difficult variety.
What was surprising was the Red Wings had promised to respond to the poor performance in Game 2, in which they fell into the Bruins’ chippy trap. Instead, they looked lost and, as Babcock put it, “off kilter.’’
Detroit is supposed to have a speed advantage but in the last two outings, it hasn’t materialized.
“If we keep turning the puck over like we did, it’s tough to generate any speed whatsoever,’’ said Kronwall. “We have to take care of the puck. That’s when we gain speed. That’s basically the biggest thing.’’
And a better start will be crucial in Game 4 Thursday night.
“[In the first period of Game 3], we were all over the place, everywhere and nowhere,’’ said Kronwall. “I didn’t think that we didn’t skate necessarily, we were just skating all over the place and not being very structured.
“I have to be better in those areas. I’m a big believer in if you do it right, then other guys will follow.’’
So, on Wednesday, it’s back to the drawing board. Kronwall said the team has to put the loss behind them.
“If we sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, we’re not going to go anywhere,’’ said Kronwall.
“We have to flush this one out, analyze what we can do better, which is a lot of things, and just get back to work.’’