DETROIT — Following Wednesday’s 6-5 shootout loss to the Red Wings, the visiting dressing room at Joe Louis Arena was not in good shape.
Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Frank Vatrano conducted postgame interviews in the hallway, unusual because they usually take place in the room. By the time the room was open, one door was off its hinges. When asked what happened, Zdeno Chara said he didn’t know.
Whatever went sideways in the room did not compare to the meltdown that took place on the ice.
“We collapsed,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien, his team once in control of a 4-1 second-period lead. “Pretty obvious. It’s just one of those games. We didn’t get the saves when we needed it. We made some mistakes. Gave them some chances. A lot of things went wrong tonight after we took that lead.”
Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek scored on Tuukka Rask in the shootout. Marchand was the only Bruin to beat Petr Mrazek, who had relieved Jared Coreau after the Red Wings fell behind in the first, 3-0.
The Bruins were angry after Monday’s 4-0 no-show against the Islanders at TD Garden. On Wednesday, they were shell-shocked.
There was no other way to feel after a dominant first period in which they grabbed a three-goal lead. The Bruins did everything right: chase pucks, produce on special teams (two power-play goals, one shorthanded strike), and dominate possession.
Their latest lesson, however, is that one good period is not enough in any league, let alone the NHL. Rask let in five goals, including three straight in the second period. Chara was on the ice for four Detroit goals. David Backes and Ryan Spooner were on the ice for three goals, including Gustav Nyquist’s tying tally at 16:56 of the third.
“Yeah,” answered Julien when asked about how the mistakes spoiled a roaring start. “That’s why I’m at a loss for words right now.”
Now they are in a state of crisis, despite the one-point result by advancing to the shootout. They have dropped back-to-back games that could torpedo the rest of the season if they let these setbacks fester.
“It’s not going to get easier,” Rask said of the approaching games against Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Pittsburgh again before the All-Star break. “This is probably the biggest couple weeks of our season coming up.”
Rask acknowledged that five goals against was too many. But Rask noted the quality of Detroit’s chances was quite good. That’s because the Bruins waved the white flag after 20 minutes and threw away a three-goal advantage.
“Mental mistakes,” Bergeron said. “Allowing them to get back in the game. It was a 4-1 game. We were jumping. Lots of energy and making great plays. Also playing well defensively. We completely stopped doing that. When they got those goals, we got back on our heels and stopped playing the way we played in the first, but also the way we need to play.”
Detroit is a fast and skilled team. The Wings thrive on mistakes, slack neutral-zone play, and loose coverage. The Bruins gave them all three things in the second, which opened the door for Xavier Ouellet, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tomas Tatar to beat Rask and tie the game at 4-4 by 14:36.
Adam McQuaid punched back at 14:57 when his snapper from the point deflected off the stick of Jonathan Ericsson and sailed past Mrazek, giving the Bruins a 5-4 lead.
But the poor play extended in the third. The Bruins couldn’t do anything to slow Detroit’s cycle game prior to the tying goal. The Wings won consecutive races for the puck before Dylan Larkin sent a puck out front that Nyquist tipped past Rask at 16:56 to tie the game at 5-5.
“We were turning too many pucks over in the neutral zone and giving them opportunities,” Marchand said. “That’s their game. They play with speed. They were just trying to chip pucks and go after it. They got good opportunities like that.”
Despite the breakdowns, the Bruins had a chance to win in overtime when Marchand had a breakaway. But a backchecking Anthony Mantha chased down Marchand and hacked at the left wing to keep him from getting a shot on net.
“The guy slashed me when I tried to make a move,” Marchand said. “The way they were calling things out there, I don’t know how they didn’t call that.”
Perhaps it was because the Bruins got what they deserved. They eased off after Vatrano (two goals), Brandon Carlo (shorthanded one-timer), and Bergeron (power play) whipped pucks past Coreau and Mrazek in the first. No team that fades in such fashion can expect help from the referees.
Now, the Bruins have no choice but to turn the page rapidly after consecutive self-inflicted kicks to the head.
“Honestly, right now, it’s about making sure that we go back and we have to find a way,” Bergeron said. “It’s unacceptable what just happened the last two games. We can’t just play that way. I said that after the Islanders game. I thought we learned from that. You’ve got to play for 60 minutes. You can’t just take the foot off the gas pedal. Teams are too good. They’ll make you pay. That’s what they did tonight.”
Follow Fluto Shinzawa on Twitter at @GlobeFluto