Throughout this series, even after Detroit earned its Game 1 victory, there has been a feeling that sooner or later the Boston Bruins would wear down the Red Wings. That feeling remained during Game 4, even as Detroit took a 2-0 lead in the second period and it only got stronger as the Bruins fought back to tie it in the third. By the time Boston's venerable winger Jarome Iginla scored the game-winner with 6:28 left in overtime, the final result seemed inevitable. These Bruins are simply too deep, too big and too strong for the Red Wings, whose uneasy mix of young and old may have taken them as far as they can go this year. After their 3-2 victory in OT on Thursday night, Boston's second sturdy road effort, the Bruins now have a well-earned 3-1 stranglehold on the series as they head home for a potential series-clinching Game 5 on Saturday.
Some observations from Game 4:
• There was good news and bad news for the Red Wings before the game. On the negative side, veteran winger Daniel Alfredsson had to sit out due to pain in his groin and lower back, and goalie Jimmy Howard was announced as a pregame scratch because of what the team said was the flu. In his place was Jonas Gustavsson, who posted a stellar win-loss mark (16-5-4) and solid numbers (2.63 GAA, .907 save percentage) during the regular season. The 29-year-old Swede held his own on short notice, making 37 saves, but the Red Wings were left without a back-up goalie for the game because their AHL affiliate, Grand Rapids, was playing in British Columbia. On the plus side of the ledger, Game 4 marked the return of captain Henrik Zetterberg, who hadn’t played since Feb. 8 because of a bad back that required surgery. He was having a fine season – 16 goals and 32 assists in 45 games – when he went down, and he clearly energized the home crowd and his team on Thursday, but he'll need time, which the Wings may not have, to return to his prior form. He appeared to lose his early steam as this game went along.
• The Wings got off to a fast start, jumping out to a 1-0 lead at the 11-minute mark. Pavel Datsyuk won a clean face-off from Boston’s David Krejci (the only draw the Boston center would lose), and Niklas Kronwall -- who was already having a special day after becoming a dad early Thursday morning -- blasted a shot past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi made the goal possible by providing a blinding screen in front of the goaltender as Kronwall took the shot. The play was a good example of Detroit's commitment to disrupting Rask's vision. Sticking to their skating and puck-possession plan, the Wings peppered Rask with 15 shots (to Boston's five) in the first period.
• Detroit’s second goal came at 4:27 of the second period after Kronwall set up Datsyuk, who was wide open by the side of the net, for the center's second goal of the series. Then the Bruins dug in and the game turned as they took the play to the Wings for the remainder of the evening, finishing with 40 shots to Detroit’s 37. During the waning ticks of a Boston power play, Selke Trophy nominee Patrice Bergeron, who has won 55 percent of his face-offs in the series, captured yet another draw and fed Torey Krug who pulled the B's to within 2-1 with a slapper that deflected off Detroit forward Luke Glendening and over Gustavsson at 10:14. Unfortunate deflections would be part of Detroit's undoing, but coach Mike Babcock had another lamet: “The face-off circle killed us," he said. "They ate us alive.” (Bergeron finished the game with a 61 percent success rate; teammate David Krejci at 64.)
• Boston got off to a superb start in the third period, putting the Red Wings on their heels for the first several minutes. Detroit forward Gustav Nyquist did a poor job of covering Milan Lucic, who evened the game at 2-2 by tucking a pass from the speedy Carl Soderberg into the net. That was the last of the scoring until overtime, which could have ended much earlier -- and with a different result -- as Detroit's Justin Abdelkader nearly scored in the first minute of the extra frame. Collecting the puck at center ice after a strange bounce, Abdelkader beat Boston defenders Dougie Hamilton and Chara up the ice. The Detroit forward went backhand to forehand, but Rask stuck out his right pad to deny him.
• The Bruins prevailed at 13:32 of OT with a trademark goal that was a product of their usual grit and gumption. Boston forwards won three separate one-on-one battles before finding room for the shot -- Krejci managed to fend off Kronwall, Iginla maintained control of the puck despite being hit into the wall by Detroit’s Drew Miller, and Lucic used his body to shield the puck from Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser. Krejci finally fed Hamilton at the right point, where he pinballed a wrist shot – off Glendening, Iginla and DeKeyser -- into the net. “It was a pretty fortunate goal, a fortunate bounce, an ugly one, but that’s how it seems a lot of those are in OT,” Iginla said after the game. “But it felt great as a team because it was a tough game. They played well but we stuck with it, from the third period on we started to get better and get more consistent chances. It was nice to get that last bounce.” Said Detroit's Kronwall, “In the third, for whatever reasons, we came off our game a little bit and started chasing. Give them credit. They are a good team.”
• The Red Wings were officially marked for eight giveaways (to one for Boston) due to the pressure the persistent Bruins placed on Detroit’s harried defense that simply appears too worn down to fend off the best team in the East. From what Boston has shown in this series, the B's are quite possibly the best in the league.
The Red Wings and Bruins meet in Game 5 at 3 p.m. on Saturday in Boston.