For the second straight matinee, the Boston Bruins came out flat against the Detroit Red Wings.
Once again, the Bruins faced a 2-0 hole on a power play and shorthanded marker. This time, they couldn’t overcome the early miscues on Alex Chiasson’s first-period power-play rebound and Mortiz Seider’s shorthanded breakaway in the second.
Trailing 4-0 following an Adam Erne rebound tally and a Dylan Larkin power play blast from the bumper, Jim Montgomery went into experimental mode. His lineup changes included former Red Wing Tyler Bertuzzi moving to the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron; a third trio featuring Jake DeBrusk, Charlie Coyle and Trent Frederic; and Pavel Zacha, David Krejci and Pastrnak reuniting on the Czech line.
Once again, the Bruins didn’t quit. Within a 10-minute timespan between the second and third periods, Boston turned a four-goal deficit into a one-goal game.
Matt Grzelcyk’s snipe on Pastrnak’s stout feed at 16:52 of the middle frame got Boston off and running.
A DeBrusk breakaway marker at 3:37 of the third and a Pastrnak snapshot 2:47 later had cut Detroit’s lead to 4-3.
The league’s best third-period team nearly pulled another comeback out of their hat. The Bruins established multiple chances for the equalizer — both primary and secondary — late in the regulation.
But Montgomery’s club couldn’t quite finish their latest come-from-behind bid. Andrew Copp sealed Detroit’s 5-3 win with his empty-net tally.
“I think we were very lackluster with our effort in the first two periods,” Montgomery told NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley. “It was nice to see us have a good push down 4-1 [after two periods] and make a game of it, but it was too little too late.”
Here’s what we learned as the league-leading Bruins dropped their 10th decision in regulation.
Special teams didn’t recover this time.
During Saturday’s rally, the Bruins showcased a little Jekyll and Hyde on the power play.
Copp’s early shorthanded breakaway marker on Krejci’s blue-line feed provided one of the lowlights of Boston’s lengthy power play rut. But the primary unit recovered in the second, scoring a needed equalizer with Bergeron tipping DeBrusk’s feed.
The power play didn’t tread water a day later. Aside from a few solid chances with their second attempt of the middle frame, they once again struggled to generate quality looks against Ville Husso.
Once again, the recent power play struggles reared their ugly head after Seider pick-pocketed a stagnant Pastrnak at the blue line en route to his breakaway tally.
The usually reliable penalty kill, with a returning Derek Forbort, also struggled for the second straight game. With crisp puck movement, the Red Wings scored twice with the man advantage to cap off a 3-for-5 weekend.
Perhaps this is just a blip for Boston’s PK. Sunday marked just the fifth time all season that the league’s leading penalty kill allowed multiple goals in a game.
The power play’s lengthy struggles remain a concern. The Bruins have too much talent to let those woes linger.
Despite some progress during Dmitry Orlov’s initial stint on the top unit, improving the man advantage remains one of Boston’s top priorities with 17 games remaining in the regular season.
Pastrnak’s turnovers come with the territory.
At times, the Hub can grow frustrated with the dynamic Pastrnak and his league-leading 91 giveaways. But with his crafty playmaking skillset, he can turn head-scratching turnovers into highlight reel plays.
Case in point came Sunday on Pastrnak’s power-play blunder. Instead of moving the puck deep while standing still on the blue line, Pastrnak wound up losing possession on Seider’s assertive forecheck. A few seconds later, the Bruins allowed their second shorthanded goal of the weekend.
Amid a rough outing, Pastrnak turned a negative into a positive. The Bruins showed life after Pastrnak found Grzelcyk skating into the faceoff dot from the opposite wall for Boston’s first tally.
For his concerns with turnovers, Pastrnak remains a threat to score whenever he touches the puck in the attacking end. His quick shot release can shift momentum at any moment, as was the case with his 46th goal of the season to cut Detroit’s lead to 4-3 early in the final stanza.
Pastrnak generated multiple chances to deliver the equalizer. He nearly added another late in the third with his patented one-timer from the left faceoff circle but just couldn’t get one more puck past Husso.
The newly-signed $11 million man earned his big payday. As Boston’s top homegrown scorer in recent memory, his impressive offensive touch can make up for any self-inflicted blunder.
Lindholm sits as back-end avoids injury scare.
Those who viewed the Bruins’ Twitter account before Sunday’s tilt in Motown likely saw the clip of Hampus Lindholm arriving with his teammates in a walking boot.
Montgomery calmed whatever fears the Boston fanbase had on Lindholm during his pregame press conference. While he confirmed Lindholm as out with a foot ailment, Montgomery quickly pivoted to a favorable prognosis for their second game of the road trip.
“Blocked a shot yesterday and his foot is swollen, so I’m not going to play [Lindholm] today,” Montgomery told reporters. “He’ll play [Tuesday] in Chicago.”
With Lindholm out, the Bruins could ill-afford another defensive injury, even in the short term.
Brandon Carlo briefly left Sunday’s tilt after colliding along the boards following a timely backcheck on Joe Veleno’s breakaway attempt on Jeremy Swayman nearly two minutes in. The seventh-year defenseman hardly missed a shift, returning a minute or two later alongside Orlov on Boston’s second defensive pairing.
Barring any last-minute development with Lindholm, the Bruins will once again continue their defensive rotation against the bottom-feeding Blackhawks. Given their impeccable depth on the back end, perhaps they’ll pursue a similarly cautious approach with Carlo.
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