DETROIT – Like an older playground bully, the Boston Bruins pushed enough Tuesday night to finally take back what originally belong to them.
The Bruins gave away their home-ice advantage in Game 1, but forcefully took it back by soundly defeating the Red Wings 3-0 in Game 3 to go up 2-1 in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series at Joe Louis Arena.
From the drop of the puck, the Bruins dominated Game 3, out-muscling their competition and controlling the middle of the ice rink all night long.
“We were off kilter right from the get-go,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I should've done a better job because we were off kilter. I don't know if we were rattled or excited or whatever. I had no idea that we would start like we did.”
The Bruins struck twice in the first period, getting goals by Dougie Hamilton and Jordan Caron that were preventable.
Hamilton’s first of the series came on the Bruins’ first power play as the 6-foot-5 defenseman skated down the right wing and fooled Wings goalie Jimmy Howard with a high-rising shot. Six minutes later, the Bruins’ fourth liners caught the Wings on a line change. Shawn Thornton cruised in on Howard, and while the Wings’ goalie made the initial save, Caron swooped in to blast the rebound into the open side of the net.
“I didn’t think we played very well from the start to be honest with you,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “I didn’t think we took care of the puck well enough, and again, I have to be better in those areas, help our team better. We made some mistakes, first one on the (Hamilton) shot. We could have done better in the neutral zone. The second one was just a bad change by me. And those are freebies we can’t afford.”
Patrice Bergeron finished the scoring by adding an unassisted empty-net goal with 1:57 left in the third period.
Special teams have been a central element in this series, and clearly, the Bruins have had the upper hand. Boston’ power play and penalty kill have outshined the Red Wings’ efforts. The Bruins are 3-for-8 on the power play and their penalty kill has been perfect, stopping all nine of Detroit’s chances with the man advantage.
“We’ve got to get pucks to the net. That’s the biggest thing,” Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser said. “We need traffic in front. We’re not generating enough second chances and making it a little too easy on the goalie.”
The Red Wings' power play is now scoreless on its past 13 opportunities, 1-for-23 dating back to the end of the April 5 game in Montreal. Since the Olympic break, the Red Wings' home power play is 7-for-36 in 12 games. They were 1-for-6 in two home games against Boston during the regular season.
“I thought the power play was a little bit better tonight,” DeKeyser said. “It doesn’t really matter if it looks good. The purpose of the power play is to score goals and that’s not happening right now. We’ll look at the tape and try and change some things.”
Detroit had its last of three power-play chances come midway through the third. Unfortunately, forward David Legwand couldn’t bury the puck as he tried to swat it past Rask, who made 23 saves in earning his fourth career playoff shutout.
“I think they were just doing a good job of getting in front of shots and boxing out and pushing guys down the walls,” Legwand said. “We gotta counter that with getting to the net and finding ways to get there.”
If not for a few heads-up defensive plays by Pavel Datsyuk, Gustav Nyquist and Kronwall to knock the puck out of harm’s way, the Bruins could have built a six-goal lead before the first period expired. Hamilton had the game’s first quality scoring chance when his shot from the right point squeezed through Howard, ricocheted off the far post and lay in the crease before Datsyuk stuffed the puck underneath the Wings’ goalie at 3:33.
The Red Wings have just two goals in this series, which is the lowest total for the first three games of a playoff series in franchise history since they were shutout in three straight games to start the 1945 Stanley Cup finals against Toronto.
Detroit has counted on its youth to stretch its consecutive playoff streak to 23 straight seasons but they’ll need more scoring out of the veterans if they are to advance beyond the Bruins.
“When I look at Pavel, he’s playing against (David) Krejci and Bergeron, two world-class players,” Babcock said. “We all know the situation with him, he’s doing what he can, as healthy as he can, but we need more from everybody.”