Red Wings forward Stephen Weiss heard his named mentioned repeatedly in the days leading up to last Monday’s trade deadline. Anyone wondering why might be advised to review the lowlights of Sunday afternoon’s 5-3 loss at Boston.
Weiss has been given every opportunity to establish himself as a top-six forward on this team, but recently failed as a third-line winger with Riley Sheahan and Gus Nyquist. So Weiss found himself on the fourth line to start Sunday, but still — inexplicably some might argue — managed to log some valuable time on Detroit’s league-best power play unit.
And that’s where things went south Sunday. Two flagrant giveaways by Weiss led to two game-changing short-handed goals for the Bruins, and the Wings lost their second straight game in regulation for the first time in 64 games this season.
This was also the first time the Wings have allowed two short-handed goals in more than 11 years, since a 5-2 loss at Phoenix on Jan. 24, 2004.
The fourth-place Bruins closed to within seven points of the Wings in the Atlantic Conference. Detroit, which closed Sunday’s game well with a furious third-period rally, will try to stop the bleeding when Edmonton visits Joe Louis Arena on Monday night. It will be the Wings’ third game in four days.
Boston, which ended Detroit’s season in the first round of the playoffs last spring, hasn’t been kind to the Wings this season. But Sunday was set up nicely for Detroit with Boston playing its second consecutive matinee game and its third game in four days.
Also, Bruins starting goalie Tuukka Rask was given a rare day off, so the Wings were competing against a very average backup in Niklas Svedberg, who arguably should have stopped all three goals he allowed.
Nyquist opened the scoring for Detroit with his 22nd goal of the season and his first in seven games. Luke Glendening — elevated to the left wing with Pavel Datsyuk on Detroit’s top line — scored his ninth. And Marek Zidlicky scored his second in four games (sixth of the season) since being traded to Detroit last week.
The Bruins took a 4-1 lead into the second intermission, and Wings starting goalie Jonas Gustavsson did’t return for the third period. He was replaced by Jimmy Howard, who allowed Boston’s second power-play goal, on a rebound between Howard’s pads with nearly 15 minutes to play.
The Wings pressed the play the rest of the way — outshooting the Bruins 40-30 for the game (Boston held a 15-5 shot advantage in the first period) — but failed to close the gap.
Brad Marchand and Daniel Paille scored the Bruins’ short-handed goals. Paille also scored an even-strength goal late in the second that led to Gustavsson’s early departure. David Pastrnak and Loui Eriksson scored Boston’s power-play goals.
So special teams, the Wings’ calling card in a season that has exceeded most expectations –- so far –- failed them miserably in this game.
Weiss — who has seven goals among 19 points, with a minus-4 in 41 games this season — didn’t see much action after he coughed up the puck that led to Boston’s second short-hander midway through the second period. He logged just 8:18 in ice time, lowest among all Detroit forwards. His line for the game: no points, no shots on goal, minus-2.
But this wasn’t all on Weiss. The Wings’ defense has been awfully generous lately. It has allowed 10 goals in the consecutive losses. And in their two previous games, both one-goal victories over the visiting New York Rangers and at Nashville, they gave up 40 shots in each game.
Although it’s still a very good bet this team will advance to the postseason for the 24th straight year, it’s a bit premature to begin planning another Stanley Cup parade.