The Bruins hadn’t gone into the Joe Louis Arena and won in over seven years, so Red Wings fans were feeling good about their team’s odds heading into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Boston made sure that there was no doubt that no matter what the venue, they can win big when it counts, shutting down the Red Wings 3-0 to take a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series.
“Our skating game was good tonight, we were closing gaps, and were able to be physical,” said coach Claude Julien. “We can talk about being a physical team, but you can’t be physical if you can’t skate and you can’t get there, so I liked our effort tonight.”
Tuukka Rask was locked in from the start, stopping all 23 shots that came his way for his fourth career playoff shutout. Jimmy Howard played well, stopping all but two of the Bruins’ 33 shots, but his offense couldn’t help him out as the Wings dropped their second straight game.
Despite coach Mike Babcock saying before the game that the Red Wings would play their style in Game 3, the Red Wings came out very aggressively, trying to hit every Bruin they could see.
That plan backfired, as the Bruins took their hits and dished them back out to the Red Wings, outmuscling Detroit in all three zones. The Bruins defense was rock solid in the first period, holding the Wings to just four shots on goal.
The Bruins struck first nine minutes into the game, as Dougie Hamilton took the puck up ice on a power play and snapped a wrister past Jimmy Howard for his first career playoff goal.
Jordan Caron doubled the lead 6:48 later, cleaning up a rebound off of a shot by Shawn Thornton for his first playoff goal. It was the first goal Caron had scored since October 10, which also happened to be against the Red Wings.
“When you look at the scoring sheet, I think the top lines on both teams are checking each other very well, so [there] doesn’t seem to be a lot of space there,” Julien said. “In order to get through this sometimes you need secondary scoring, and that was a big part of our win tonight was getting [that], obviously Hamilton on that rush, and Caron scoring that goal… [That’s] probably a big reason why we are able to win here tonight.”
The horn sounded to end the first period, and the Joe Louis crowd, who had been booing Public Enemy No. 1 Milan Lucic all night, turned their boos to their own team, as Detroit sulked back to the dressing room down two scores.
In what has become an unsettling trend through the first three games of these playoffs, the Bruins ran low on gas in the second period, allowing the Red Wings to get into an offensive rhythm. Aided by two Bruins penalties – a holding of the stick on Brad Marchand and a too many men on the ice call – the Red Wings tallied 12 shots on Rask.
The Bruins didn’t break though, totaling 12 shots of their own in the period and headed to the second intermission still holding a two-goal lead.
The Bruins amped up the intensity in the third period, making sure that they were not going to let this game slip away. Detroit got one last big chance with just over 10:00 to play, as Kevan Miller flipped a puck over the glass and was called for delay of game, leading to a 5-on-4 for the Red Wings.
The Bruins defense was superb in front of Tuukka Rask, not letting the Red Wings get comfortable at all in the offensive zone. The B’s held the Red Wings to just seven shots in the third period.
Patrice Bergeron sealed the game with a nifty long range shot from behind his blue line to score an empty net goal with 1:59 to play.
“It hasn’t been easy, let’s not kid ourselves here,” Julien said. “The games have been tight; our goaltender has made some saves at opportune times. We’ve been fortunate enough in the past couple games to get ourselves a decent lead, but that can change on any given night, so certainly not going to talk about a comfortable situation, because until you win that fourth game it never is.”
The series will continue on Thursday, as the teams return to the Joe for Game 4, with the Red Wings needing a win to guarantee that there will be another contest in Detroit this season.