Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Bruins and the Red Wings was a case of missed opportunities for the home team, as the B’s fell to the Detroit at the TD Garden 1-0.
Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard grabbed the win in a shutout by saving all 25 shots he saw. Tuukka Rask allowed just one goal in the 24 shots the Red Wings mustered on the night.
“It was a pretty even game I thought for the most part,” Zdeno Chara said afterwards. “Eventually it came down to whoever was going to score that one goal… The goalies were very good, and there were some chances on both sides.
“Eventually it went for them, [but] it’s going to be an even series.”
“I don’t think there were any secrets in tonight’s game,” said coach Claude Julien. “Both teams played really tight defense and that’s why there wasn’t that many scoring chances in the game.
“I know that throughout the game, both teams try to make small adjustments, but overall, I don’t think there was any surprise out there today.”
It was announced before the game that forwards Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille, as well as defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller were scratches, leaving the B’s to start Jordan Caron and Justin Florek at forward and Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter on defense.
The Bruins started the game by showcasing their physicality, keeping the puck in the Red Wings’ zone and hitting everyone they could see. Caron, who started in Paille’s place on the fourth line, got in a big hit on Brendan Smith, much to the delight of the crowd.
The Bruins first test came with 3:52 left in the first, as Zdeno Chara was sent to the box for boarding, leaving the already-weakened defense without their best penalty killer. Johnny Boychuk stepped up to play the entire Detroit power play, while Florek and Potter also saw time on the PK unit.
“The penalty kill is something I kind of pride myself on,” Florek said. “So, it’s really good to be noticed for that and then especially to have them trust me like that in a playoff game. It’s important for me going forward here to keep working on that and build that trust.”
The Bruins were able to hold the Red Wings to just one shot on the power play and both teams headed into the first intermission without a goal.
Boston started the second period on a 3-0 shots run, but couldn’t get one past Howard. They narrowly missed making it 1-0 when a shot pinballed around the Detroit crease, off the back of Howard and towards the net, but barely scraped by the outside post.
“We had some really good chances,” Chara said. “Very close ones. But that’s the way it goes. You’ve just got to keep going and try to score on those.”
Detroit got another power play chance with 4:02 to play in the period as Torey Krug was called for holding, but the Bruins PK held strong again, and the horn sounded on 40 minutes with two goose eggs on the scoreboard.
The Bruins finally had a power play chance 5:17 into the third period, when Tomas Tatar went to the box for interference. The Bruins couldn’t capitalize on the ensuing man advantage, but they had several strong chances and looked to have put their poor second period behind them.
Detroit had a golden opportunity midway through the period when Rask came out to play the puck at the Bruins’ faceoff circle and got caught in no-man’s land, but Krug and Potter bailed the Bruins’ goaltender out of a potentially embarrassing Red Wings goal.
The Bruins best chance of the game came at 16:32 in the third, when Jarome Iginla threw a shot at the net and Milan Lucic tipped it seemingly past Howard, but somehow it didn’t get through the Detroit netminder.
“It was a fortunate save, it was pretty lucky,” Howard said. “[Lucic] stuck his stick out and got a lot on it and it just sort of spun my glove and I was just able to get enough on it, I was pretty lucky.”
Just 31 seconds after the near miss by Lucic, Pavel Datsyuk skated through the neutral zone, into the Bruins end, and ripped one past Rask for the first score of the game with just 3:01 to play.
“[Datsyuk] was by himself there and so I’m just thinking a shot and he drags it across and releases from his legs,” Rask said. “You just try to get the puck in your eyes and I couldn’t. Usually he tries to make a pass, but I thought he was by himself there.”
The Bruins were unable to muster a tying score with Rask pulled and the horn sounded with the Red Wings victorious.
“It was a very close game – a very tight checking game,” Chara said. “Not much room. It’s just very even. That’s what we kind of expected.
“It’s the first game. We’ve got a day tomorrow, we’ve got to do our best to regroup and get ready for the next game.”
These two teams meet again at the Garden for Game 2 on Sunday, with the Bruins looking to even up the best-of-7 series before it heads to Detroit.