The top two teams in the Eastern Conference meet for an early-season showdown as the Boston Bruins host the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.
Boston was one of three teams with an unblemished record entering Thursday, when it surrendered a two-goal lead with two minutes remaining in a 4-3 overtime loss to Anaheim.
The Bruins could have set a new franchise record with seven consecutive wins to begin a season. Instead, it’s back to the drawing board ahead of a key matchup.
“Well, those are games you want to finish the right way and those are points you need down the stretch,” Boston forward Charlie Coyle said. “It’s tough to win this league. You’re never out of it. We’ve got to learn from it.”
Second-period goals by Coyle, Matt Grzelcyk and David Pastrnak put Boston in a strong position, but an inability to extend the lead and struggles in the closing minutes led to what coach Jim Montgomery described as an “inexcusable” defeat.
But there is no time to rest. The final three games of Boston’s four-game homestand are all against Atlantic Division foes in the Red Wings, Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
“We’ve got three real good teams coming in and we’ll see where we stand in our own division,” Montgomery said. “I think our division is really competitive top to bottom, so (they’re) going to be good tests for us coming up.”
Montgomery had hoped to keep his lines together to help generate chemistry, but injuries to Milan Lucic and Jakub Lauko have forced him to change course. Patrick Brown has played several games on the fourth line.
Lauko will be out at least a week after taking a skate to the face Tuesday in Chicago. The coach expects Lucic, who took a puck off his foot last Saturday in Los Angeles, to miss “a minimum of a couple of weeks.”
Boston’s true goalie rotation should continue, meaning Jeremy Swayman would get the Saturday start.
Detroit had posted points in six consecutive games before Thursday’s 4-1 loss to Winnipeg, in which Lucas Raymond scored the team’s lone goal.
“I don’t think our process was off (on Thursday),” Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde said. “Probably didn’t have enough energy throughout. We had pushes but it wasn’t push, push, push the whole time.”
Despite the loss, Dylan Larkin continued to produce. An assist on Raymond’s goal made him the first Red Wing since Henrik Zetterberg in 2007-08 to record points in at least the first eight games of a season.
Larkin’s linemate, Alex DeBrincat, has made an impact in his debut season with Detroit. The NHL’s First Star of the Week logged five goals and eight points in four games last week, but he has one goal while the Red Wings have gone 0-1-1 since.
Before Winnipeg, the Wings lost 5-4 in overtime to Seattle on Tuesday.
“You want to find ways to not get extended streaks like that,” Lalonde said. “Again, I’m not alarmed (about the past two games) in that we did do some pretty good things.”
Detroit will look to return to the winning track as it heads out for consecutive games on the road.
“It’s not going to be perfect all the time,” forward David Perron said. “That’s why I’m excited heading into the next game and seeing how we react.”