DETROIT — The clock rolled ahead by an hour overnight Saturday, and the Bruins arrived for a Sunday matinee with their watches, minds. and legs all standing still, adding up to a 5-3 loss to the Red Wings less than 24 hours after the Black and Gold officially clinched a berth in the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Red Wings, 3-2 losers on Causeway Street on Saturday afternoon, ran off to a 4-0 lead by late in the second period, then withstood a late Bruins pushback that included a David Pastrnak goal (No. 46) that pulled the visitors to within a goal, 4-3, with 13:36 remaining in regulation.
But that’s where Sisyphus ran out of steam for the Bruins, who saw their special teams picked apart for two power-play goals, along with the second Red Wings shorthander in just over 24 hours. Andrew Copp then slid home an empty-netter with 24 ticks to go, dropping the Bruins’ league-leading record to 50-10-5.
“Nice to see us have a push, make a game of it,” said Bruins coach Jim Montgomery, who helped spark the offensive with second- and third-period line juggling. “But it was too little, too late.”
Montgomery did not buy the idea that fatigue, be it mental or physical, was a reason for his club’s slow, listless start in Little Caesars Arena.
“Shouldn’t be,” he noted. “They had a lot of jump in their legs and beat us to every loose puck, so, you know … and we found it in the third.”
Indeed they did, eventually.
“Eventually…” he agreed. “Key word there.”
Ex-BU forward Alex Chiasson provided the 1-0 lead on a power play midway through the first, followed by a Moritz Seider shorty for the 2-0 advantage early in the second. Seider picked Pastrnak’s pocket at the Red Wing defensive blue line, put on the jets, and finished with a doorstep backhand lift on Jeremy Swayman, with Pastrnak chasing in his vapor trail.
Nothing pokes a team in the eyes like giving up a shorty. Poised to even it, 1-1, the Bruins for a second day in a row watched their boo-boo blow up big time. Pastrnak coughed up the puck after receiving a feed from Brad Marchand that he found difficult to handle. In a blink, Seider was barreling up the right side.
“It was a poor decision,” Montgomery noted, referring to Pastrnak. “You know, we want that puck to go to the goal line when we don’t have a play and don’t have time on the entry.”
Dylan Larkin and Adam Erne each struck, bumping the lead to 4-0, before Matt Grzelcyk finally solved goalie Ville Husso with 3:08 left in the second. The Wings took the 4-1 lead into the break, the first time the Bruins trailed at the 40:00 mark since Feb. 14 in Dallas.
Some of Montgomery’s reworking of the lines included pulling Jake DeBrusk off the No. 1 line and moving newcomer Tyler Bertuzzi, the ex-Red Wing, to the top trio with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. DeBrusk, riding with Charlie Coyle a number of times as his pivot, potted his 20th this season to cut it to 4-2 early in the third.
Pastrnak, second only to Edmonton’s Connor McDavid in goal scoring, made it 4-3 less than three minutes later.
DeBrusk’s game showed some energy after the move, which could foreshadow his working with Coyle and Trent Frederic Tuesday night in Chicago. Not to be determined until the day-of-game skate at the United Center.
“I felt like I was struggling a little bit there,” said DeBrusk, focusing on his play before the change in line combos. “More so in battles…just things on the forecheck and certain reads — felt like we were off as a line, myself included obviously. One of those things, you never want to get off that line, but at the same time, I knew Charlie and Freddy were playing well together. So it was kind of, let’s give it a push and see what can happen.”
It was the Bruins’ second game in as many days. Only a month remains in the regular season. A playoff spot is in the bin, only the seeding TBA. Any of it could have been a factor in their overall lack of snap, crackle, and pop.
“I think you could put any excuses you want in there,” said DeBrusk. “We just weren’t good enough. I think it’s one of those things, obviously, playing Detroit [Saturday] ... I think the details of our defensive zone game … we were getting in some track meets and we don’t usually do that.”
Swayman (16-6-4) gave up four goals on 25 shots and, following his loss Thursday to the Oilers, suffered his first back-to-back losses of the season. He had won five in a row. Montgomery said he did not consider giving him the hook after 40:00, what could have been a move to attempt a kick-start.
“I didn’t think goaltending was the issue,” noted Montgomery. “I thought our lack of … we gave up a lot of odd-man rushes, breakaways … I think he stopped two or three breakaways in the third.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.