BOSTON – It was a week ago when coach Mike Babcock told anybody who would listen that the No. 8 seed Red Wings would be a tough out against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Boston Bruins.
The Red Wings may now have the attention of some hockey pundits following a 1-0 victory over the league’s regular-season points leader Friday at TD Garden.
Datsyuk’s goal came on the heels of a glorious scoring chance by the Bruins’ Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic. Boston was unable to capitalize and the Red Wings transitioned up the ice for what was the game-winner.
Lucic tipped Iginla’s shot past Howard, but the puck trickled through the Red Wings’ goalie before caroming safely toward the far side of the net. Johan Franzen led the rush through the neutral zone before handing off the puck to Datsyuk, who somehow managed to stickhandle through a Bruins’ defender before ripping a shot between Dougie Hamilton’s legs that beat Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who was also screened by Justin Abdelkader.
“We know we need to shoot everything,” Datsyuk said. “They shoot everything and you know it’s a game one-shot different. I just shoot and actually we make a nice play on the blue line and Abby made a nice screen for me.”
The Bruins came close to grabbing the series lead and maintaining home-ice, but disappointment is part of sports, Rask said.
“That’s how it goes most of the time,” the Bruins’ goalie said. “One team has a chance and doesn’t score and then the other team capitalizes on the second chance. But you know what can you do? You just got to battle back and try to get the next one.”
Friday’s win is the Red Wings first 1-0 playoff win since Steve Yzerman scored in the second overtime to defeat St. Louis in Game 7 to advance to the 1996 Western Conference finals.The victory is also Detroit’s first series-opening win on the road since a 3-2 overtime win at Colorado in 1999. Detroit had lost seven consecutive series openers on the road, and overall, the Wings had dropped four-straight Game 1's since beating Phoenix at Joe Louis Arena in the 2011 Western Conference quarterfinals.
“Obviously you want to get in and you want to establish yourself in the series especially when you’re the lower seed,” Babcock said. “Sometimes when the upper seed gets the upper hand right away you start questioning whether you’re good enough. We know we’re good enough but it’s one thing to know you’re good enough and another thing to show you’re good enough. So I thought it was important for us to get started in the series so we can continue to get better as a group.”
The series resumes Sunday at TD Garden with Game 2 at 3 p.m. EDT.
The Red Wings hung tough in a tight-checking contest against the bruising Bruins, whom many thought would out-muscle their way through Detroit’s faster team.
A lot had been made prior to the series about the Bruins’ physicality while in reality they finished the regular season ranked No. 12 in hits, averaging 24.5 hits per game. The Bruins must have believed the pre-series hype, hitting anything in a Red Wings’ jersey in the first period, out-hitting Detroit 17-11 through the first 20 minutes. Boston finished with 34 hits, including a game-high seven by its behemoth defenseman Zdeno Chara.
“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.”
The Red Wings had the only power plays through 40 minutes but came up empty on both opportunities. The Bruins had their power-play chance early in the third when Tomas Tatar was called for interfering with David Krejci.
Despite getting two shots on Howard, the Bruins didn’t convert on their lone power play, which brought some relief to Tatar.
“We expected they would call something on us,” Tatar said. “I was kind of upset it was me but what can you do? I didn’t feel good about it and I feel kind of guilty but thanks to our guys they did a great job on the PK and they held it for us.”
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