DETROIT — The tide has definitely turned for the Detroit Red Wings.
The Boston Bruins — with 110 points, the NHL’s best team — came into Joe Louis Arena Wednesday night and thoroughly dominated play, yet somehow left with a 3-2 loss.
The Bruins hadn’t lost a game in regulation since dropping a 4-2 decision to the Washington Capitals on March 1.
The Wings, on the other hand, have been scratching and clawing to remain in one of the wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard single-handedly kept the Wings in the game for the first two periods. Even though it was tied at a goal apiece at that point, the Bruins were outshooting the Wings 25-11.
"Our goaltending was good, and we survived and found a way to get playing, get skating a little bit," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "And we were fortunate enough to be opportunistic and score some goals."
As has been the case for a while now, the kids took charge offensively.
Tomas Tatar scored the goal in the second to tie the game at 1.
Then, after the Bruins had retaken the lead on a power-play goal by Carl Soderberg in the third, Tatar and Tomas Jurco buzzed the Boston net.
The puck was lying in the crease near Tatar’s foot, and he kicked it to Jurco, who put it past Tuukka Rask at 11:06 of the third.
"I lost my stick and my helmet, but I found the puck between my legs," Tatar said. "We were playing two-touch before the game, so I figured, ‘Why not kick it?’
"I saw Tommy open on the other side of the net, so I kicked it over and he put it in."
Gustav Nyquist, the league’s leading scorer since Jan. 20, managed to get around Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara for the game-winner at 12:48.
"I think he came off the bench, so it was tough for him to get enough time to gap up, got kind of flat-footed," Nyquist said. "I just tried to use my speed.
"I came with pretty good speed, so I skated around him wide. And I was in alone and just tried to get a quick shot off underneath the glove and saw it go in."
Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the morning skate that the one thing they had to take away from Nyquist was breakaways.
"We got to make sure we keep him in front of us," Julien said. "That’s one of the young players that has come in here and, given the chance to be a front guy, has taken total of advantage of it.
"Those things probably don’t happen if (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg are still in the lineup. When things like that happen, some guys are really good at stepping to the forefront. He’s done an unbelievable job of doing that."
Nyquist now has 23 goals and 36 points in his last 28 games. He has 28 goals in 51 games.
"He’s in the zone right now," Howard said. "It’s no different whether you’re hitting the ball every single day in baseball or you’re making grabs like Megatron (Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson). He’s in the zone right now and just delivering for us."
For comparison’s sake, Bruins star Patrice Bergeron has 27 goals in 76 games.
Yet, Nyquist’s goal was his only shot of the night, and he had two giveaways.
"I didn’t think Gus had one of his best games by any means, but he scored a big goal," Babcock said.
When that happens against the top team and the top goaltender in the league, you know that things have started to go your way.
Injuries took their toll on the Wings and put their 22-season playoff streak in jeopardy, but now the kids who were forced into bigger roles have improved and some of the injured guys are back.
"They’re one of the best teams in the league," Howard said. "For us to come back and grit out a win like that is huge."