They were focused on the little things. They were focused on taking each and every minute one at a time. They were focused on being focused.
And in the end, it served them well: They beat Detroit 3-1, earning their second home win of the season.
“We were far from being happy with how things were going at home,” said forward Patrice Bergeron. “We’ve got to make it hard for other teams to come in and play us, and tonight, I thought, was a step in the right direction, for that matter. I thought we played a strong, solid game, and the way we are supposed to play, and it showed in the result.”
In the recent past, the Bruins have had success against the speedy, offensively-gifted Red Wings, and they have done it by limiting Detroit’s time and space. They did just that in the first period on Saturday, limiting the Wings to a mere one shot on goal through the first 15 minutes of play.
“I thought we had a good first period,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “Sometimes, it’s one of those games where you know you’re going to have to grind it out.
“I thought our board work was really good in that first. I thought our neutral zone was really good in that first — didn’t give them too much speed through the neutral zone, and I think that part was good. When we did get in their own end, the forecheck was good and created some scoring chances. So we just had to stick to it. Some nights, it doesn’t get accomplished at first, but if you continue to grind the same way through the other periods, eventually, you get rewarded.
“And that’s what happened tonight.”
All three of those rewards came in the second period, and it started with Bergeron.
As Bergeron crashed the net, he fired a shot on Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek, and Mrazek lost the puck behind him. Before Mrazek could find it, Bergeron backhanded the rebound into the net, giving Boston a 1-0 lead with about 13 minutes left in the frame.
Four minutes later, Loui Eriksson controlled the puck up the right-side boards and sent a cross-ice pass to a streaking David Krejci, who came in one-on-one against Detroit defenseman Jakub Kindl. Krejci hesitated, stepped to the middle, beat Kindl and then put the puck past Mrazek for the 2-0 lead.
“When you go one-on-one, you try to make something happen,” Krejci said. “Skill players, they like to do something, so I tried some move. It worked, and I was happy that it went in the net.”
But the Bruins weren’t done. Not yet. In the shift immediately following a strong penalty kill by the Bruins, Brad Marchand poked the puck loose along the right-side boards, took it into the offensive zone, then slowed down and waited for a trailing Torey Krug.
Marchand backhanded the pass to Krug, who notched his first goal of the 2015-16 season.
“If he would’ve missed that one, he would’ve been in trouble, right?” Julien joked. “March did all the work on that one, but Torey did a great job of following up. Give him credit — he followed up on the play and scored.
“Tonight, I thought he played really well.”
The third period, as expected, was a test. The Red Wings had no intention of heading back to Detroit without a fight, and the Bruins knew that.
So they prepared for the storm they knew would come.
“I think we knew they were going to come out in the third period and push,” Krug said. “At times, we had a couple big shifts where we cleared the puck, made some good plays to kind of take their push back a little bit.”
Six minutes into the frame, Detroit drew a penalty on Zac Rinaldo. Thirty seconds later, the Red Wings had their first goal of the game, courtesy of Justin Abdelkader.
But after that goal, the test truly began. So many times this season, the Bruins have struggled to stand their ground after the other team has scored. They have lacked the necessary pushback.
But not on Saturday. The Bruins kept the Red Wings off the board for the remainder of the night, and for the second time that night, it was the penalty kill that generated the momentum required to seal the victory. When Adam McQuaid went off for boarding with just under four minutes remaining in regulation, the Bruins held strong, and it left them with their second home victory of the season.
“I thought we stayed composed,” Bergeron said. “We knew that they were going to give us a push in the third, being up by three goals, and we got scored on on the PK, but at the same time, I thought we stayed with it. We managed to create some good opportunities after that, and our transition game was good, and our neutral zone as well.
“So I thought we managed it well, and we found a way to win.”
Though Rask didn’t face many shots to start the game, he had certainly been tested by the time it ended — and he was sharp, particularly in the third period. Rask finished with 22 saves on 23 shots as well as his second home victory of 2015-16.
He was reluctant to take much credit, though, insisting that Saturday’s performance was the full team effort this group so desperately needed.
“I look good when the team looks good, and vice versa,” Rask said. “Today is a great example.
“It’s just a great group effort. It helps me a lot when that happens. Obviously, some nights are tougher than the others. We just have to understand when that happens, [if] we stick together and we really keep the game simple, then we’re going to get even more results. I think that’s where it’s at.”
Two days ago, this season-long, five-game homestand didn’t start off on the right note. But on Saturday, against a division rival, the Bruins began to right the ship. They didn’t have to rely on the power play to win the game. They got it from their five-on-five play. They got it from their penalty kill.
They simply got the job done where they needed to.
“Good teams learn from their mistakes,” Krejci said. “So I hope that we learn as a group and we can move forward and build on this win and have a good game on Tuesday.”