DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Red Wings are playing their best hockey of the season while perhaps hurting their chances of winning the NHL draft lottery.
Anthony Mantha scored three goals for his first NHL hat trick, lifting Detroit to a 6-3 win over the Boston Bruins on Sunday night.
Jimmy Howard had 31 saves for the Red Wings, who have won five straight for the first time this season. The run has decreased their odds of getting the No. 1 pick in the draft to possibly select American star Jack Hughes — much to the chagrin of some of their fans.
“The fact that our young players are the ones that are driving this winning streak should temper some of those concerns,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “These are the guys that are going to make the impact than anybody we draft.”
Taro Hirose scored his first NHL goal early in the third period, just 8 seconds after Mantha completed his hat trick.
The 24-year-old Mantha scored twice in the opening period to give Detroit a 2-0 lead and scored again 1:17 into the third period to tie the game at 3. Hirose, who signed March 12 as a 22-year-old free agent from Michigan State, put the Red Wings up 4-3 while their fans were still roaring after the tying goal.
Filip Hronek, a 21-year-old defenseman, gave Detroit a two-goal cushion with 7:57 remaining in regulation, and 22-year-old captain Dylan Larkin added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
“We’re just trying to enjoy the last couple of days, last week,” Mantha said. “It shows on the ice.”
The Bruins, meanwhile, lost three of four games for the second time in March to give Toronto a chance to catch them for second place in the Atlantic Division.
“We want to get to the point where we could have the luxury of resting people,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We’d also like to play for what’s in front of us, which is second place. We’re allowing some of that opportunity to get away.”
The Bruins took a one-goal lead into the third period after David Backes redirected a shot into the net with a minute left in the second. Boston’s Jake DeBrusk scored early in the second and Brad Marchand tied the game midway through the period with a franchise-record 26th short-handed goal.
“It’s nice, but it doesn’t mean as much when you don’t win,” Marchand said.
Jaroslav Halak stopped 22 shots for the Bruins.
Even though Detroit will miss the playoffs for a third straight year, Blashill is expected to get a two-year contract extension this week. The rebuilding franchise is developing young players such as Mantha and Larkin under Blashill and the team is competing for him even though it has been out of contention for much of the season.
“They’re competing hard,” Marchand said. “They’re kind of loose right now. They’re feeling it, playing really well.”
NOTES: Marchand’s short-handed goal broke Boston’s record set by Rick Middleton between the late 1970s and late 1980s. … Detroit D Danny DeKeyser left the game with a lower-body injury.
Bruins: Play at Columbus on Tuesday.
Red Wings: Play Pittsburgh at home Tuesday.
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