DETROIT -- As he prepared his team to face the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday, Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien had a plan for defending red-hot forward Gustav Nyquist.
Asked after the morning skate what the Bruins needed to take away from Nyquist's arsenal, Julien gave a one-word answer; "Breakaways."
His response drew some chuckles from reporters because Nyquist had torched the Tampa Bay Lightning three days earlier for an electrifying breakaway goal in a big win. After he did it again, this time to the Bruins in Detroit's 3-2 victory at Joe Louis Arena, it was no laughing matter.
Nyquist's breakaway goal with 7:12 left in the third period provided the winning margin -- and was just as pretty as the one he scored against the Lightning.
"He's in the zone right now," said Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, who made 33 saves and played an equally big role in the win. "It's no different whether you're hitting the ball every single day in baseball or you're making grabs like Megatron [Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson]. He's in the zone right now and just delivering for us."
It was the third straight win for the Red Wings (36-26-14), who pushed their season point total to 86 and helped their own cause in the chase to make a 23rd straight appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Detroit owns the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference; the Red Wings are three points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and four in front of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It was the first loss in regulation for the Bruins (52-18-6) since March 1, ending a string of 16 straight games recording at least a point. The loss also snapped a nine-game win streak on the road and a 16-game string of recording at least a point away from TD Garden.
"I think we did a great job until the end," Julien said. "[Nyquist] scored that winning goal and we got caught flat-footed there. Instead of getting the puck in deep, we turned it over just inside the [Red Wings blue line] and we've got a [defenseman] changing and the other guy's caught flat-footed. I'm looking more at our team than that [goal], because other than that we had done a pretty good job. We were in decent shape."
Nyquist's game-winner and Howard's play in goal weren't the only examples of the Red Wings' scrappy effort amid a slew of injuries to regulars. There was also the game-tying goal scored at 11:06 of the third period by rookie Tomas Jurco, which came as the result of Tomas Tatar's kicked pass during a goalmouth scramble.
That happened about 10 minutes after Carl Soderberg gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead during a power play 1:10 into the third. Boston actually carried the play for most of the game, but the Red Wings found a way to earn the two points for the third time in four head-to-head meetings.
The Bruins outshot Detroit 35-20 and missed the net 10 times, including several chances in the second period with Howard out of position after making a save. They were shaking their heads in disbelief afterward.
"It's kind of unbelievable that we lost," Boston defenseman Dougie Hamilton said. "I don't really know [how]. We matched them. We had good chances and good zone time and everything, so I don't really know what happened."
A simple answer: Tatar, Jurco and Nyquist are what happened.
Just as they've been doing of late, the Red Wings' youth movement helped them capitalize on a few mistakes. The goals by Jurco and Nyquist were great examples.
Jurco scored his off a pass that Tatar kicked across the crease to end a wild scramble that featured the puck disappearing at one point. Nyquist scored less than two minutes later.
After picking up a loose puck off a turnover by Soderberg in the Detroit defensive zone, the speedy Nyquist turned on the jets through the neutral zone and created a one-man rush after zipping around 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara at the Boston blue line. He fended off a couple whacks by Chara, then beat Rask for his 23rd goal in the past 28 games by roofing a shot into the upper right corner of the net.
Howard made the lead it stand up and Boston's winning ways were over.
"That was fun," Nyquist said. "That was a really good comeback there. It was great to see. The crowd was really into it, too, so that was awesome to see. I think [Chara] came off the bench, so it was tough for him to get enough time to gap up, [and he] got kind of flat-footed. I just tried to use my speed. I came with pretty good speed, so I skated around him wide and I was in alone and just tried to get a quick shot off underneath the glove and I saw it go in."
Johnny Boychuk scored the first goal for the Bruins, who played without first-line right wing Jarome Iginla for the first time. Iginla was a late scratch due to what the team called a lower-body injury. Julien said Iginla was day-to-day but that the injury wasn't serious.
Boston forward Patrice Bergeron had his seven-game goal streak come to a halt, while Nyquist extended his own goal-scoring streak to three games. He has scored in nine of his past 10 games.
Tatar scored Detroit's first goal, finishing with a two-point night in another step toward the postseason. Jurco, who had four shots and finished with a plus-2 rating, is just enjoying the ride.
"The truth is I don't know how long I'll be staying here," he said. "I mean, I'm not saying that I'm supposed to go down [to the minors], but with the way it is with me, I'm just trying to be good every night. Some nights it doesn't go well, but I'm just trying to work hard and trying to work through it. Even tonight's goal ... it was hard work. It wasn't going well for me, I couldn't score, I was getting frustrated but tonight it finally went in."