DETROIT – The story lines were aplenty inside an electrified Joe Louis Arena Thursday night.
But none of them mattered much after Dougie Hamilton’s point shot in overtime ruined an otherwise perfect day filled with several intriguing subplots for the Red Wings.
Hamilton’s shot struck three objects en route to lifting the Boston Bruins to a 3-2 in overtime victory over the Red Wings. The Bruins now head home with a commanding 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series and can advance to Round 2 with a win in Game 5 Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.
“I just heard it went off somebody. But those are the goals that are scored,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “You look at most of the goals in the playoffs, there's not a lot of pretty passing plays. It's a lot of get the puck to the net, it's gonna be a dirty one. A greasy one and you've gotta find a way to find those.”
Hamilton wasn’t credited with the winning goal though his shot led to the Bruins’ third consecutive win in the series. The defenseman’s shot first struck Luke Glendening’s stick near the top of the face-off circle, then, as the puck continued on its path toward the back of the net it went off of Bruins forward Jarome Iginla and finally off Danny DeKeyser’s left leg before crossing the goal line.
The Red Wings had at least three subplots to Game 4, including the return of their captain Henrik Zetterberg who was playing for the first time since undergoing back surgery in late February.
Meanwhile, backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson made his NHL postseason debut when the Wings learned prior to the start of Game 4 that starter Jimmy Howard was too ill to suit up. And the significant others of two Red Wings – Kronwall and center Pavel Datsyuk – gave birth hours leading up to Game 4. And the proud papas contributed with a goal and an assist each.
For someone who hasn’t played since the first game of the Olympics, Zetterberg looked amazing in his return. He registered one shot and two hits with a plus-1 rating while logged 19:34 of ice-time on 29 shifts.
“Obviously it was fun to be back, it would have been a little more fun to get the W but we’ll just move on to Boston here and play a good game,” Zetterberg said. “I’ve played a lot better before and I just want to get better too.”
Zetterberg, who skated on the top line with Datsyuk and forward Justin Abdelkader, provided plenty of energy to the team as well as the sold-out crowd. While it was good to have the captain back in the lineup, the Wings weren’t able to feed off of his return for a full 60 minutes.
“I thought that line had good jump early,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought our power play was really dangerous early. As the game went on, I didn’t think we were as dangerous anymore. I don’t know if we had a lot of good players, especially the young guys, when I go through and look at them I don’t go ‘Hey, he had a great game. He had a great game.’ I don’t do that at all. They were dressed.”
The Bruins have been the better team in the series, establishing dominance in each of the previous two first periods, building 2-0 leads in each Game 2 and Game 3. But it was Detroit that controlled the play early on in Game 4. They out-skated, out-hustled and out-chanced the Bruins through the first 20 minutes, and had a 2-0 lead early in the second period.
The Red Wings out-shot the Bruins, 14-5, in the opening frame. It was the most shots in a period for Detroit in the series.
“I think the first two periods we did a lot of good things, kept going after them, kept throwing pucks in there,” Kronwall said. “In the third for whatever reason we got a little – came off our game a little bit. We started chasing a little bit. Give them credit, they're a good team. We have to do a better job of just staying structured in those areas in those times of the game.”
Years from now first-time dad Kronwall will definitely have a great story to share with his new born son, Douglas, about the day he was born. It was Kronwall who got the Red Wings out in front, 1-0, and helped flick the light switch on to the power play, which until the first period was lifeless on nine straight opportunities in the series.
“Obviously it was a big day for me, for me and my girl,” Kronwall said. “It's something I'll never forget, for sure. Rushed out of here (Thursday morning), got there just in time to be there. Just holding your son for the first time, it's a pretty special feeling.”
Kronwall’s goal at 11:00 was his first in the playoffs since his second-period goal helped Detroit to a 4-3 victory in Game 5 of the 2011 Western Conference semifinals at San Jose.
Datsyuk, who welcomed new daughter Vasilisa into the world Thursday, scored his second goal of the playoffs on a pretty play by Kronwall that gave the Red Wings their first two-goal lead of the series at 4:27 of the second period.
But the Bruins eventually stormed back on goals by Torey Krug and new Wings nemesis Milan Lucic to force overtime.
Iginla’s first playoff goal as a Bruin came at 13:32 of OT.
Now the Red Wings are faced with a steep climb, needed to win three straight games if they are to advance to Round 2 against the Montreal Canadiens, who are resting at home after sweeping Tampa Bay in their first-round series.
“It is steep but we know it’s tough to close out a series,” Zetterberg said. “We’ve been in that spot before and just got to go in and win one game and bring it back home here.”