The Bruins blew a three-goal lead in a shootout loss to the Red Wings. (Rick Osentoski/USA Today Sports)
Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena, a 6-5 Bruins shootout loss that ended with the Bruins serenaded off the ice by the Motor City’s familiar victory refrain of ‘born and raised in South Detroit’ belted out by the hometown crowd with the fire of a 25-year playoff streak on the line, felt like a table-read of coach Claude Julien’s decade-long, record-setting run with the Black and Gold.
A day after Julien took the temperature of his painfully on-again, off-again team and made practice a last-second healthy scratch, instead giving his team a day off the ice to simply recharge and focus on the task of hand, the Bruins came out flying with a pace seldom seen this season. The Bruins scored in the opening 44 seconds of the game, and by the 8:50 mark of the period, the Bruins had a 3-0 lead thanks to one even-strength goal, one shorthanded goal, and one power-play goal.
And more importantly, Monday’s no-show against the Islanders looked like a mere blip. But then the Red Wings made it a two-goal game. The Bruins scored a last-minute goal to make it a three-goal lead by the end of the first period, though, and all was fine.
It was the B’s first four-goal opening period of the season, and just their second of the season.
The period was a 20-minute execution that showed that rest was the only thing that the Bruins needed and that the message and the overall effort was still there and going to be there for their head coach.
But then the Wings answered. Three times in a row and within a 10:15 stretch, and the Bruins’ three-goal lead was gone. Adam McQuaid, one of the Julien’s ride-or-die players since he emerged on the scene for the club in 2010, answered just 21 seconds after the Red Wings tied it, and the Bruins carried a one-goal edge into the locker room through 40 minutes.
The Bruins then came up with a big late-game period kill against the Wings, but when things got messy and the Bruins once again lost men, the wall caved and the Wings tied things up for the second time on the night, and with just 3:04 left in the game. The Bruins were then forced to survive another penalty against — which they did — and went to overtime.
Julien, the ultimate survivalist, was going to be tested once more.
And a team that’s simply survived as best they can this year, were asked to come up for one last hurrah.
But in the shootout, it was familiar foes that doomed the Bruins in shootout goals from Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen, as the Bruins skated off as a loser for the third time in their last four games. And this one felt like their ugliest one yet, as the Bruins became just the eighth loss in 146 games this season in which the losing team at one point held a 3-0 lead.
It was a 65-minute white-knuckle ride that felt like a perfect encapsulation of Julien’s career behind the Boston bench.
The Bruins were at times completely dominant and looked like the teams that ran to the fourth-round in 2011 and 2013. At other times, they looked asleep behind the wheel, much like the last two springtime versions of this group. Julien pushed some right buttons (the Bruins loaded up down the middle with David Backes as the third-line center for the first time all year), but at the same time stuck with guys a little too long (Ryan Spooner’s disastrous shifts cost the B’s goals and goals against).
You could sense the game-long desperation and borderline panic from Julien, too. The TV behind the B’s bench felt it, too.
Is this the final straw for a frantic front office? Not sure. But back-to-back losses to bottom of the barrel Eastern Conference teams, and looking anything but playoff (or even game) ready in the process, is undoubtedly rock bottom for this group.
And now comes time to see if Julien — and the B’s front office — can survive the fallout of another heinous 3-0 collapse, or if Julien is a made man that will go out like The Sopranos: to the tune of “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey.