Boston — As good as the Red Wings have been at Little Caesars Arena, it’s been a different story on the road.
But Tuesday night, the Wings got a little something going away from home, as well.
Playing a patient and disciplined road game, and getting continued top-notch goaltending from Alex Nedeljkovic who tied a career-high with 41 saves, the Wings went into Boston and defeated the Bruins, 2-1.
Marc Staal broke a 1-1 tie with a third-period goal at 11:33 after Boston’s David Pastrnak netted a power-play goal to tie the game at 6:20.
Staal pinched from the point and put a rebound past goaltender Linus Ullmark for his first goal of the season.
Then Nedeljkovic preserved the lead with another outstanding game, earning his third consecutive victory.
Filip Zadina opened the Wings’ scoring in the second period.
Boston had won 11 of the previous 12 games between the teams at TD Garden, so this was a notable victory.
“Everyone knows to make the playoffs you have to take care of home-ice advantage, but you need to go at least .500 on the road,” defenseman Jordan Oesterle said Monday, before the Wings traveled to Boston.
The Wings had gone 1-6-1 in their last eight road games, including going winless in the last four. Finding some success on the road, and beginning to match their home proficiency, was a main topic of conversation the past few days.
“We’d like to take our crowd, but we can’t, and that’s probably a good segue to what we got to do better and that’s quell momentum on the road,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “How do you do that?
“You manage the puck better. You put pucks behind, you take what’s given. If there’s plays to be made, you make the play. If there’s not a play to be made you live another day.”
Having the level of goaltending that Nedeljkovic is supplying also helps.
Zadina scored his fourth goal, at 5:03 of the second period, injecting offense into what had been largely a defensive struggle.
Zadina has been seeing less time on the second line and used on the fourth line as Blashill wanted to inject Givani Smith’s size and physical nature on the slumping second line.
But Zadina showed the potential he possesses, causing a neutral-zone turnover, receiving a pass from Pius Suter as Suter just hopped onto the ice, and skating through the slot to deposit a backhander past Ullmark.
Zadina’s inconsistency and lack of offense has triggered frustration from some Wings fans, but Blashill is a big believer.
“Everybody’s timeline’s different,” Blashill said. “My focus on him, although I do want him to score, and he wants to score, is he can’t put all his self-worth as a player into scoring. There’s a lot of ways to make an impact in games, and there’s a lot of ways to be good players.”
The Bruins were without leading scorer, forward Brad Marchand, who began serving a three-game suspension for an infraction against Vancouver’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson in Sunday’s game.
Blashill felt the Bruins were going to be a different team without Marchand, and not better certainly — but not necessarily that much weaker.
“Marchand is one of the very best players in the league,” Blashill said. “Is he easily replaceable? No chance. They do have good depth. They’ve got really good players that can step into those roles.”
Blashill felt it was a comparable to when the Wings have missed players such as Dylan Larkin or Tyler Bertuzzi this season.
“They’re big pieces, and I’ve said it before, that doesn’t mean you can’t have great games and doesn’t mean you can’t play real well as a group,” Blashill said. “Everybody else has to step up their game and play their ‘A’ game and sometimes that’s hard to do on an everyday basis. That’s why the really good players are really good players.
“Marchand is one of the best players in the league, but it wasn’t long ago that Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player), and they have good players who can step into those roles.”