Thanks to their 15-0-1 record over the past 16 games, the Bruins have already clinched the Atlantic Division, and with the new NHL playoff format means that they will play one of the two Wild Card teams in the opening round.
The Detroit Red Wings have struggled in their first season in the Eastern Conference, but are right in the middle of the Wild Card hunt, so Wednesday’s matchup in the Motor City very well could have been a first-round playoff series.
If that was the case, then Bruins fans are in for a wild ride come April 16, the first scheduled day of playoff action.
This game was a defensive battle early, with both teams managing just two shots on goal each through the first six minutes. The Bruins first scoring chance in the first came when Patrice Bergeron had a breakaway chance early on that was stopped by Jimmy Howard.
Detroit got a strong chance of their own when Kevan Miller lost a puck off his stick in the neutral zone , leading to a Todd Bertuzzi breakaway with just over six minutes to play, but Tuukka Rask was up to the task, stoning Bertuzzi as he tried to go five-hole on the Boston netminder.
The Bruins struck first with 3:10 to play in the first, shortly after a score by Krug was waived off when the referees said Zdeno Chara interfered with Howard. Johnny Boychuk made up for it on a blast from the blue line that zipped by everyone, including the Red Wings’ goalie, Howard. The Bruins got 11 shots away in the first, but just one got by Howard, while the Bruins defense held Detroit to just four first period shots.
The game picked up in the second period, as the Red Wings tied the game 4:45 into the period just as a rare penalty to Patrice Bergeron expired. The Bruins hammered Howard with 14 shots in the period, but couldn’t find the back of the net, as the defense held Detroit to just seven in the period.
The Bruins suffered a scare early in the third when Bergeron went down hard after he was hit awkwardly in the leg on the power play. He stayed down on the ice for just a few seconds before getting up. He was favoring the leg for the rest of the man advantage but was able to feed a nice pass to Carl Soderberg for the go-ahead power play goal.
The Red Wings fought back, however, as a crazy sequence in front of the Bruins net resulted in Tatar kicking the puck over to Tomas Jurco, who put the puck in the net to tie the game. A miscue by Soderberg in the offensive zone led to a Gustav Nyquist breakaway and the 24-year-old snapped one over Rask to give the Red Wings their first lead of the night.
The Bruins, who seemingly dominated play for most of the night, couldn’t muster anything after the Nyquist goal. They suffered their first regulation loss since March 1.
The Bruins are only a few points away from clinching the best record in the Eastern Conference, meaning they would play the No. 2 Wild Card team. The silver lining of this loss is now there is a less likely chance that the Bruins would play the Red Wings in the opening round, which, considering the Bruins 1-3 record against the Wings this year, may not be such a bad thing.