The Red Wings, who made the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the second and final wild card in the East, showed everyone in Game 1 on Friday why the regular-season standings didn't mean much.
Pavel Datsyuk scored with 3:01 remaining to lift the Red Wings to a 1-0 win against the Presidents' Trophy-winning Bruins at TD Garden to take the early series edge. Jimmy Howard made 25 saves to earn his third career postseason shutout.
Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC) back at the Garden.
"Obviously, you want to get in and you want to establish yourself in the series, especially when you're the lower seed," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "Sometimes when the upper seed gets the upper hand right away, you start questioning whether you're good enough. And we know we're good enough, but it's one thing to know you're good enough and one thing to show you're good enough. I think it was important for us to get started in the series so we can continue to get better as a group."
Detroit right wing Johan Franzen dug the puck out of the Red Wings zone and dished it ahead to Datsyuk, who pulled it between his legs at the Detroit blue line and skated up the ice on a 2-on-2. After crossing the Boston blue line, Datsyuk crisscrossed with linemate Justin Abdelkader. With Abdelkader driving to the net, Datsyuk beat Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask high to the glove side with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle.
"Yeah, not bad," said Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who, along with partner Brendan Smith, was instrumental in keeping the Bruins' No. 1 line of Jarome Iginla, David Krejci and Milan Lucic off the score sheet. "The puck was probably 4 or 5 feet behind him and he was able to pick it up, do things that no one else can do. We've seen it before, and he did it again. [Abdelkader] did a great job pushing their far defenseman down, which created some more room for [Datsyuk], and when he shot the puck, Rask didn't see it much."
Moments earlier, Howard survived the Bruins' best scoring chance. Lucic tipped an Iginla pass that went off Howard's glove and just wide of the goal.
"It was a fortunate save. It was pretty lucky," Howard said. "I forget who it was that lobbed it in, but he 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."
After the Red Wings' morning skate, Babcock indicated he felt Howard would be "dialed in" for Game 1.The veteran goalie proved his coach right.
"I just said that because that's the right thing to say, right?" Babcock said after the game. "No, he has to be. That's the bottom line. That's what we pay these guys to do. Both guys are supposed to be high-end goaltenders, and they've got to give their teams a chance, and he's done it for us in the past in playoff time, and we just expect it."
The Bruins were without two of their top four defensemen, Kevan Miller and Matt Bartkowski, and two forwards, Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille, because of injuries and illness. Rask stopped 23 of 24 shots in the loss, which was the Bruins' fourth in five tries against the Red Wings this season.
After two periods with no goals, Rask made his best save early in the third period when he flashed out his right pad to stop a point-blank chance by Red Wings forward Darren Helm. That preserved the tie before the Bruins' first power-play opportunity. Howard then grabbed the spotlight with a couple key saves on Bruins forwards Reilly Smith and Carl Soderberg, who couldn't stuff in a loose puck at the top of the blue paint.
Rask, though, was victimized by Datsyuk's magic later in the period.
"Well, he 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 first period had a roller-coaster feel and ended with the teams still in search of the first goal. Detroit outshot Boston 11-9 and had the only power play of the period. Defenseman Zdeno Chara was called for boarding against Brendan Smith. With their top penalty-killing defenseman in the box, the Bruins were able to kill off the penalty, allowing one shot.
The second period closely resembled the first, but Boston outshot Detroit 7-5. The Red Wings again failed to capitalize on a power play, this time with Bruins defenseman Torey Krug in the box for holding.
The Bruins had not been shut out in a playoff game since April 14, 2011, when the Montreal Canadiens blanked them behind Carey Price.
"We're used to playing tight games, and we've been there before," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. "So we've just got to manage plays and make sure we score when we do have those chances."