The Boston Bruins showed the fire that was mysteriously missing in their series-opening loss, scoring twice in the first period on their way to a 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings, evening the first-round, best-of-seven NHL Eastern Conference playoff series at one game each.
After winning the President’s Trophy with the best record in the NHL, finishing the 2013/14 NHL season with 117 points, Boston turned in a strangely lackluster performance in Game One Friday, managing only 25 shots on goal as they fell to bottom-seeded Detroit 1-0.
But on Sunday at Boston’s TD Garden, the Bruins came out with guns blazing, blasting 18 shots at Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard in the first period alone.
Winger Justin Florek struck first for the Bruins, powering in an unasissted wrist shot a 7:28 of the first. Reilly Smith followed just three minutes and seven seconds later, sneaking in behind the Detroit net crease to grab a loose puck and knock home a power play goal past Howard. Louis Eriksson and Patrice Bergeron got credit for assists.
But the real star of the game for Boston was 27-year-old Finland goaltender Tukka Rask, who saved all but one of the Red Wings’ 35 shots — which was still six more shots on goal than the Bruins took. It was a rock-solid, workmanlike outing for Rask who never had to make a spectacular save but nonetheless did everything asked of him to keep Detroit out of the net.
Detroit seemed to get back in the game at 13:20 of the second when a puck that rattled off of Luke Glendenning found the rare opening allowed by Rask. But Milan Lucic got the goal back for the Boston Bruins with under two minutes left in the second, barely sneaking a shot past Howard.
Another jammed-in Boston power play goal, this time from Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, all but sealed the win for the Bruins with just 2:33 gone in the final period. Detroit amped up the pressure as the Bruins mainly played defense the rest of the way, mostly content to dump the puck into the Detroit end and let the Red Wings wear themselves out.
But Rask was called upon to make a pair of fine saves off Detroit’s Kyle Quincey in the seventh minute of the third.
The game also saw some early fighting as a scrum of players from both teams piled up in the Red Wings’ crease in the second minute of the game, resulting in two minor penalties for each team.
Later in the period, the Boston Bruins’ big enforcer Chara found himself challenged by Detroit’s much smaller Brendan Smith. But when Chara dropped his stick, Smith turned and skated back to the bench — perhaps wisely.