Playing in a traditional Black Friday matinee at TD Garden, which was aired in the United States by NBC, the two Original Six rivals put on a show that surely pleased even the most casual fan of the game.
When 65 minutes of gripping hockey and an equally enthralling shootout were completed, Detroit skated away with a 3-2 statement victory against the defending Stanley Cup champions, who saw their 10-game winning streak snapped.
Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom has played in more than 1,500 regular-season games in his career. Yet, he admitted that Friday's game was a bit special -- for what it meant and what it became as the two teams contested every inch of ice to prove they were worthy of their adversary on the ice.
Sid sets his sights highAlan Robinson NHL.com Correspondent
The Penguins captain made it look easy at times in his amazing return to the ice Monday; now he wants to get back into the groove of playing regularly and helping his team reach its full potential. READ MORE ›
However, this game was not just about the past and what has transpired between these two rivals. No, Friday was about measuring yourself against the best.
Boston holds the Stanley Cup and was riding a 10-game unbeaten streak entering the game. Detroit, meanwhile, had won four in a row and was showing signs of finding the game that has made it the League's cornerstone franchise for much of the past two decades.
"For our team, it was (a statement) that we can play solid on the road and beat a very good team that is the defending Stanley Cup champion that is playing very well," Lidstrom said. "I think you saw two very good teams, two very strong teams. But I think you saw some individual players on both sides that were making plays or making saves. So I think it was a fun game for the fans to watch. It was a fun game to play in. The atmosphere was here in the building and two Original Six teams playing, it was a fun game to play."
It wasn't just the high that comes from winning that was causing smiles, though.
There's no question the Bruins were upset to see a 10-game winning run come to an end, especially after Patrice Bergeron tied it at 2-2 in the third period with a dynamic individual play.
"When you start a game, you want to win a game," Bergeron said. "That's the approach we've had since we've started playing better. Tonight was the same idea and we wanted to get that extra point. Unfortunately, tonight it did not happen."
But once the sting of losing dissipated, even the Bruins had to admit that it was special to be part of such a captivating performance on the national stage.
"For whatever reason, it had a little bit of a playoff atmosphere," rugged forward Shawn Thornton said. "Before the game, Soupy (Gregory Campbell) said that on the bench, that it felt that way."
Boston certainly knows about playoff atmospheres after going to three Game 7s in their run to the Stanley Cup this past June, so that statement carries a certain amount of merit.
Still, it was the play on the ice that told the true story of the magic that was unfolding on a Friday afternoon in late November, one day after Thanksgiving and with more than 50 regular-season games remaining on the schedule of each team.
"I think you saw two very good teams, two very strong teams. But I think you saw some individual players on both sides that were making plays or making saves. So I think it was a fun game for the fans to watch. It was a fun game to play in. The atmosphere was here in the building and two Original Six teams playing, it was a fun game to play." -- Nicklas LidstromYet, players were fighting for everything across every foot of ice. There were 52 hits, 32 blocked shots and 23 takeaways in this game.
Perhaps nothing showed the competitive nature of this game more than the battle that Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara and Detroit forward Pavel Datsyuk waged across three periods and five minutes of overtime.
On one shift, the towering Chara roughed up Datsyuk along the boards in the defensive zone, knocking his helmet off in the process. The puck eventually went in the other direction and Chara corralled it at the blue line, only to have Datsyuk, giving away almost a foot in height and 50 pounds in weight, ram him into the boards.
"It was nothing personal," Datsyuk told NHL.com. "He's in the black jersey and I'm in the white. It's nothing but we want to win and he wants to win. Every detail, every battle, we want to win."
Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg watched that battle unfold throughout the game and admitted he was transfixed by it at times.
"They are very competitive players and they don't like to get pushed around," Seidenberg told NHL.com. "That is what makes people watch the game and us as well. They are very fair and honest players and it's fun to watch them (compete)."
That win-at-all-costs mindset, possessed by most of the 38 players involved in Friday's game, is what made the game so compelling for those at the Garden and those watching on national TV.
Detroit's Valtteri Filppula opened the scoring, only to see Danile Paille answer in the second. Thirty-five seconds later, Datsyuk regained the lead for Detroit. Yet, Boston refused to relent -- even with history against them. Detroit entered the game with a 9-0-1 record when leading after 40 minutes.
When Bergeron scored off a turnover, beating Jimmy Howard with a quick-release shot, it appeared the Wings would be caught on their heels. Boston finished the period with 18 shots, but couldn't solve Howard -- who finished with 39 saves in regulation and 41 for the game -- for the winning goal.
"Jimmy said he wanted to be in the highlights on national TV, so we gave him a shot," Datsyuk said.
Howard grabbed it. He stopped two of the three shots he faced in the shootout and became the winner after Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi scored against Tuukka Rask.
"It was a great showcase," Howard said, sitting in the cramped visitors' room at the Garden, slowly peeling off his equipment as he savored the win. "For it to go into a shootout, it was a great way to decide it. It was a lot of fun playing out there today.
"The crowd was into it and it had that playoff feel to the game. It was just a pleasure to play in. It was a great hockey game. It's fitting, isn't it? You have two great hockey teams come right down to the end; it was a fitting end to a great day of hockey."