DETROIT (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - The response was to let the Boston Bruins occupy Hockeytown.
In what was supposed to be a message game from the Detroit Red Wings, it was the Boston Bruins who delivered a scary one. They manhandled the Wings in the opening period Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena, taking advantage of Jimmy Howard and his teammates en route to a 3-0 shutout victory that leaves Detroit trailing 2-1 in the first-round, best-of-7 series. Game 4 is Thursday at the Joe, and Game 5 is Saturday in Boston.
Patrice Bergeron scored into an empty net with 1:59 still on the clock; that's how desperate the Wings were to score. They have just two goals after three games.
The Wings came home dented but undaunted after splitting the first two games in Boston. They came home confident home ice would matter, that home fans would energize, that home comforts could undo the unraveling from Game 2.
The atmosphere was set with requisite octopi thudding onto the ice as the anthem ended. Fans had glow sticks, and all was good.
Then the game began - and the atmosphere soon went from cheer to jeering. It was all well and good when Justin Abdelkader and Jordan Caron got into a little scrum after a whistle. It was just careless when the Wings got called for too many men at 7:40, an opportunity the Bruins used to go up 1-0 after Dougie Hamilton fired a shot from the right circle that Jimmy Howard saw coming but let fly high and deep.
That was bad on Howard but it was much worse what his teammates did to him seven minutes later, when a bad change left Howard the only Wing in his zone as the Bruins smelled vulnerability. Caron connected on Shawn Thornton's rebound, giving the Bruins a two-goal lead for a second straight game.
While Howard worked up a sweat, Tuukka Rask grew as cold as the ice he guarded. He saw one shot the first 12 minutes, and four by the end of the first period. Partisan fans were so disgusted, they booed.
The best the Wings did as the second period got underway was show off an improved penalty kill, holding the Bruins off on two straight man advantages. It was during the second one, in fact, that Rask finally saw some action, when Darren Helm zoomed in on a breakaway and angled a shot from the lower right circle. The Wings finally got a power play nearly midway through the game, and then they got an overlapping one, setting up 35 seconds with two extra skaters. They got four shots total on Rask during the entire man-advantage stretch, but were still guilty off going to a fancy pass when a shot was open.
The Wings got a third power play midway through the third power play, and managed to get just one shot on Rask. The lack of a threatening power play has been debilitating for the Wings this series - they are now 0-for-9 for the series, unable to use it to their advantage.
Contact Helene St. James: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.