Alex Nedeljkovic had an assist on the empty net insurance goal and made a career-high 47 saves on 50 shots against, while Jakub Vrana’s third period power-play goal proved to be the eventual game-winner in the Detroit Red Wings’, 5-3, win against the Boston Bruins Tuesday night at Little Caesars Arena.
Nedeljkovic improved to 18-21-8 on the season with a 3.31 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage in 52 games played after his 47-save performance on Tuesday.
Bruins goaltender, Jeremy Swayman (20-10-3, 2.29 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 34 games played), stopped 24 out of 28 shots faced in the loss.
Boston fell to 44-21-5 (93 points) on the season and dropped to 4th place in the Atlantic Division by virtue of having played one more game than the Tampa Bay Lightning (93 points in 69 games to Boston’s 93 points in 70 games played).
Detroit, meanwhile, improved to 27-34-9 (63 points) overall, but remained in 5th place in the Atlantic– 30 points outside of a divisional playoff spot and 21 points shy of the Washington Capitals for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The B’s fell to 3-4-1 in eight games at Little Caesars Arena all-time, while also splitting their 2021-22 regular season series with the Red Wings (2-2-0).
The Bruins went 1-2-0 against Detroit in 2019-20, and did not meet the Red Wings in the condensed 56-game regular season in 2020-21.
Boston was without the services of Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Trent Frederic (upper body) and David Pastrnak (undisclosed) on Tuesday.
Frederic skated before Tuesday night’s matchup on the road, though there is no timetable for his return.
Meanwhile, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, was forced to shake up his lines– promoting Tomáš Nosek to the second line right wing in Pastrnak’s normal spot, while forming a fourth line consisting of Jack Studnicka at center– flanked by Anton Blidh and Marc McLaughlin on his wings.
Nick Foligno took Frederic’s spot on the third line as a result, while Curtis Lazar joined Josh Brown and Connor Clifton on Boston’s list of healthy scratches in Detroit.
On defense, Mike Reilly slid over into Brown’s spot on the third defensive pairing with Derek Forbort re-entering the lineup.
Early in the opening frame, Taylor Hall drove a rush into the attacking zone before sending the puck through the high slot to the opposite wing where Erik Haula (13) caught the pass and unloaded a wrist shot on Nedeljkovic’s far blocker side into the twine– giving Boston a, 1-0, lead as a result.
Hall (37) and Nosek (13) tallied the assists as the Bruins jumped out to the first lead of the night at 4:43 of the first period.
Midway through the first period, McLaughlin caught Adam Erne with an inadvertent high stick and was assessed a minor infraction as a result at 13:44.
The Red Wings did not convert on the ensuing power play and, while Boston’s penalty kill proved to be very successful– scoring a shorthanded goal in the process, in fact.
Detroit made a turnover in the neutral zone leading to a 2-on-1 for the Bruins featuring Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand before the B’s yielded a couple of chances prior to Forbort setting up Brandon Carlo (6) for a shot past Nedeljkovic’s stick side and a two-goal lead as a result.
Forbort (8) and Bergeron (35) had the assists on Carlo’s second career shorthanded goal (his first since Jan. 2017 in Detroit)– tying the young defender’s career-high in goals scored in a season (six in 2016-17) in the process as well at 14:17.
The Bruins led, 2-0, but they’d go on to give up four unanswered goals before hitting the back of the twine once more for the rest of the night.
Charlie McAvoy was assessed a roughing minor at 17:18 and the Red Wings almost capitalized on the ensuing power play.
McAvoy was released from the box without issue at 19:18, but the Bruins were caught in the vulnerable minute after special teams action and gave up yet another last-minute goal in any period as Moritz Seider setup Dylan Larkin (30) for a quick release from the right circle past Swayman.
Seider (40) and Lucas Raymond (31) notched the assists on Larkin’s goal and Detroit cut Boston’s lead in half, 2-1, at 19:20 of the first period.
Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and held an, 18-12, advantage in shots on goal.
The Red Wings led in blocked shots (5-2), giveaways (4-3) and hits (11-8), while the B’s led in takeaways (3-1) and faceoff win percentage (52-48).
Detroit was 0/2 on the power play, while Boston had yet to see any time on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.
The Bruins would have an early power play at 1:22 of the second period, however, as Pius Suter tripped McAvoy and yielded a skater advantage to Boston as a result.
The B’s failed to conver on the power play, however.
Shortly thereafter, the Bruins failed to clear their own zone and the Red Wings kept the puck in by the blue line before working a shot that deflected off of a body in front of the net into the back of the twine courtesy of Michael Rasmussen (11) being in the right place at the right time on Swayman’s doorstep.
Erne (12) and Danny DeKeyser (8) tallied the assists on Rasmussen’s goal as Detroit tied things up, 2-2, at 5:46 of the second period.
A couple minutes later, Jake Walman cut a rut to the sin bin for holding at 7:48, but Boston wasn’t able to convert on the ensuing power play.
Midway through the middle frame, Nedeljkovic gave up a rebound that worked to the advantage of the Red Wings as they were quick to recover the loose puck in the slot and go end-to-end as Suter sent it up to Vrana before Vrana setup Filip Zadina (9) on a one-timer goal with Forbort taking the bait and Reilly out of position by default as a result.
Vrana (4) and Suter (17) had the assists on Zadina’s goal as the Red Wings went ahead, 3-2, at 11:32 of the second period.
Late in the period, Foligno hooked Seider and was sent to the box at 19:07, but Detroit wasn’t able to convert on the resulting skater advantage.
Through 40 minutes of action, the Red Wings led, 3-2, on the scoreboard, despite trailing Boston, 33-24, in shots on goal– including a, 15-12, advantage for the Bruins in shots on goal in the second period alone.
The B’s also led in takeaways (3-2) and faceoff win% (59-41), while Detroit held the advantage in blocked shots (6-4), giveaways (11-5) and hits (21-17).
The Red Wings were 0/3 and the Bruins were 0/2 on the power play heading into the final frame.
McAvoy caught Raymond with a high stick at 3:27 of the third period and Detroit made sure to capitalize on the ensuing power play.
It didn’t take the Red Wings long before Filip Hronek passed the puck to Vrana (8) as he was charing through the neutral zone with a burst of speed into the attacking zone before sending a shot past Swayman– high on the blocker side.
Hronek (31) and Walman (5) had the assists on Vrana’s power-play goal and Detroit took a two-goal lead, 4-2, at 4:08 of the third period.
Moments later, DeKeyser cut a rut to the sin bin for interference at 8:46, but the Bruins couldn’t convert on the resulting skater advantage.
Shortly thereafter, Boston tweeted that Hampus Lindholm would not return to the night’s action with a lower body injury.
The recently acquired defender did not make an appearance in the third period and Cassidy told reporters after the game that he didn’t think Lindholm would be out for long-term.
Moments later, DeKeyser was heading back into the box for hooking at 11:58, but Boston’s ensuing power play was cut short as Hall hooked Walman at 12:46.
The Bruins withstood Detroit’s abbreviated power play after 1:12 of 4-on-4 action.
With 3:36 remaining in the game, Cassidy pulled Swayman for an extra attacker.
Marchand and Larkin received slashing minors shortly thereafter at 16:45 and yielded 4-on-4 action once again.
While at even strength at 4-on-4, the Bruins went to work in the attacking zone with Swayman pulled for a de facto 5-on-4 advantage.
McAvoy riffled a shot from the point that Bergeron (19) redirected in the slot past Nedeljkovic on the lower left pad to bring the Bruins to within one.
McAvoy (42) and Hall (38) notched the assists on Bergeron’s goal and the B’s trailed, 4-3, at 17:24.
As a result of his goal in Tuesday night’s loss, Bergeron (394) is now one goal away from tying Ray Bourque (395) for the fourth-most goals in Bruins franchise history.
With 1:29 remaining in regulation, Swayman vacated the crease once more for an extra attacker, but it was ultimately to no avail as a deflected shot led to a slow roller in front of Nedeljkovic whereby the Detroit goaltender was able to corral the rubber biscuit without issue.
Nedeljkovic sent a pass up to Sam Gagner in the neutral zone before Gagner (9) buried the puck into the empty net in Boston’s own end to give the Red Wings a, 5-3, advantage on the scoreboard as Nedeljkovic (2) recorded the only assist on Gagner’s empty net goal at 19:13.
At the final horn, Detroit had won, 5-3, despite finishing the night trailing, 50-29, in shots on goal.
A scrum after the game also resulted in a few punches thrown and some wrestling matches resulting in a plethora of penalties at 20:00 of the third period.
Blidh picked up a slashing minor and a misconduct as Forbort was assessed a misconduct for Boston, while Rasmussen earned a slashing minor and a misconduct for Detroit officially at the 60-minute mark of the game.
Boston left Little Caesars Arena leading in faceoff win% (60-40), while the Red Wings exited their own ice with the advantage in blocked shots (9-7), giveaways (15-5) and hits (31-28).
Detroit finished the night 1/5 on the power play, while the Bruins went 0/4 on the skater advantage on Tuesday.
Boston fell to 32-8-2 (17-4-1 on the road) when scoring first, 25-3-1 (13-2-1 on the road) when leading after one period and 4-16-2 (1-7-1 on the road) when trailing after two periods this season.
The Red Wings improved to 9-25-6 (7-9-4 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 5-23-3 (3-9-1 at home) when trailing after one period and 20-2-3 (14-1-2 at home) when leading after the second period in 2021-22.
The Bruins visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday before concluding their four-game road trip (1-1-0) at Capital One Arena against the Washington Capitals Sunday afternoon.
Boston returns to TD Garden for a three-game homestand beginning on April 12th against St. Louis.