DETROIT — Hockey is a fast and exciting game. It is also a game that sometimes makes little sense, as we saw again Sunday.
The Bruins, leading the NHL standings in points (80), have 11 regulation losses this season. Two of them are to a team having one of the worst seasons in NHL history.
That would be the Red Wings, who used a little pluck, a little luck and a phenomenal performance from red-hot goalie Jonathan Bernier to wrest away a 3-1 win from the top dogs here at Little Caesars Arena.
Because of a schedule quirk, the Bruins (34-11-12) were playing their second game in 21½ hours. Their legs didn’t seem to be the issue, since they were pushing the pace, drawing penalties and making plays.
Their hands, however . . .
The Bruins chunked several birdie putts, including a slick third-period setup from Charlie McAvoy that Chris Wagner heeled wide of an open net. Brad Marchand was foiled three times by Bernier on first-period power-plays. David Pastrnak couldn’t solve Bernier on four shots.
“We made plays around him, we didn’t finish them,” said coach Bruce Cassidy.
“I give Detroit credit for winning a hockey game. But I don’t think they were the better team.”
The only Bruin to score was Torey Krug, the hometown kid (Livonia, Mich.), who made it 1-1 in the third period by finishing a cross-crease feed from Pastrnak.
“We were skating well. Made a lot of good plays out there,” said Krug, who had a game-high 11 shot attempts (six SOG). “I think most guys felt good. . . . We had a lot of good looks.”
The Bruins doubled up the Wings in shots in the first (12-6), second (14-7), and third periods (14-7), and went 0 for 4 on the power play (eight shots there).
The veteran Bernier, who finished with 39 saves, may wind up taking a lottery Ping-Pong ball or two away from the cellar-dwelling Wings (14-39-4). Over the last two months, he has the third-best save percentage in the league (.939), just ahead of Tuukka Rask (.934).
It was supposed to be a ballcap-and-bench day for Rask, who stopped 18 of 20 after expected Boston starter Jaroslav Halak was a late scratch. Halak, slated to work the second game of the back-to-back, did not appear for warmups and did not sit in the customary backup goalie seat. The Bruins announced during the game he was not feeling well, but was available if needed. Cassidy said afterward Halak had an upper body injury that “flared up,” and he would have been less-than-good if called upon.
“It’s not a position you can play at 70 or 80 percent,” said Cassidy, whose club hosts Montreal on Wednesday.
After the Bruins misfired on three first-period power plays, including 1:18 of 5-on-3 time, Detroit’s Brendan Perlini opened the scoring at 2:07 of the second, scooting to the outside of Brandon Carlo and sneaking a snapshot under Rask’s glove.
The Bruins believed they tied the score some 10 minutes later.
After further review . . . and then some . . . they had not.
At 12:22 of the second, Marchand tipped a Pastrnak pass through Bernier’s legs. But Detroit coach Jeff Blashill challenged for offside, noticing that Patrice Bergeron was inside the blue line as he changed off, his blades touching the ice, as Marchand re-entered the zone before the play.
The goal was wiped out after a review that lasted four minutes, 42 seconds of real time, and ground the action to a halt.
“I think it’d be good for you guys tomorrow to write a nice story about how great that is for the NHL, and NBC,” said a sarcastic Cassidy, whose team has seen a league-high six goals revoked via video replay, five of them for offside review, arguably none of them for the “egregious” plays the NHL told its employees last summer it wanted to eliminate.
“It takes that long?” he said. “You know my feeling on that. Not a big fan of the procedure or the rule. It came back, surprise surprise, against us.”
Even though he wasn’t involved in the play, Bergeron took responsibility. He said Marchand’s transition entry happened quicker than he expected.
“It’s the rule,” he said. “I usually get off on the right side of the blue line.”
Krug, who tied the score 33 seconds into the third period, wasn’t alone in thinking the process should be tightened.
“If it’s not clear in 40 seconds, then it’s inconclusive,” Krug said. “Don’t stare at it for 10 minutes.”
With 7:10 gone in the second period, Detroit’s Andreas Athanasiou scored his first goal in 20 games on a backdoor power-play finish. He added an empty-netter with 29 seconds left.
With a loss, Detroit would have been eliminated from the Atlantic Division race, which seemed like a fait accompli at their season opener in October. They won for the second time in 11 games (2-9-1) and seventh time in the last three months.
Hockey. Sometimes, it doesn’t add up.