BOSTON – The test wasn’t so much the game but how he felt the next day.
Henrik Zetterberg did not practice Friday after he played more than 19 ½ minutes in his playoff series debut a day earlier, but he was glad to report no acute or chronic pain in his lower back.
“I’m feeling good. It was fun to be out there, play a game finally,” said Zetterberg, who underwent surgery in late February to alleviate debilitating nerve pain. “I think back-wise I felt good today. I’m looking forward to (Saturday).”
Zetterberg said he plans to play in Game 5 at TD Garden, where the Red Wings, trailing three games to one to the Boston Bruins, face elimination in their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series.
The Red Wings definitely rallied around Zetterberg’s return in Game 4, especially at the start when they played their best period of the series, out-shooting the Bruins 14-5 and taking a 1-0 lead into the intermission.
“We did a lot of good things, but in the same way we went away from it too to many times,” the Red Wings captain said. “When you’re playing a team like Boston that’s really structured and they play the same way for the whole game, we have to do the same thing. We have to realize we’ve got to stick to our structure, play well and don’t give them any free chances because they’re not giving us any.”
As for his back, Zetterberg was happy with how it held up in the most physical game of the series. The Montreal Canadiens had 94 hits in their first-round series sweep of Tampa Bay. The Wings and Bruins equaled that number in Game 4.
“First and second was better than the third and overtime. That was expected,” said Zetterberg, who had no points, one shot and a plus-1 rating. “We tried to have cap minutes, but when overtime came that kind of went out the door. You want to play. You want to be out there. I felt good enough to go out in overtime. Unfortunately we didn’t get the result we wanted to but today’s a new day.”
Now that he’s pain-free, Zetterberg’s next step is to propel the Red Wings’ offense off the starting line. Detroit has scored just four playoff goals on Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, who on Friday was named as a finalist for the league’s Vezina Trophy.
“It’s tough to score in the playoffs and especially when you play against a team like this that plays good defense,” Zetterberg said. “We have to go into the tough areas and be there for the second chances. Their goalie has been playing well. But there are rebounds and pucks laying around there in the crease.”
Playing structured, simple and without pressure is a recipe the Red Wings hope to use Saturday to extend the series to a sixth game in Detroit on Monday. The Wings know how difficult an opponent can be to close out, as they experienced that pain last spring when Chicago became the 25th team in league history to rebound from a 3-1 series deficit.
“We know it’s tough to get the fourth one. That’s the toughest one to get,” Zetterberg said. “We played really well in the first one in Boston. We just have to go out and win one game and bring it back home to The Joe. That’s our mindset and attitude. Just play well.”
TV NOTE: Thursday’s Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena averaged 1.056 million viewers on the NBC Sports Network, making it the channel’s most-watched, non-elimination game in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The previous such record was set on April 22, 2011, when Game 5 of the opening-round series between Buffalo and Philadelphia averaged 931,000 viewers.