A much more physical Bruins team evened its series with the resourceful Red Wings at one game apiece on Sunday afternoon with a 4-1 victory. Boston scored a pair of power-play goals and outmuscled its smaller opponent all afternoon, reasserting itself as a tough, stubborn bunch. The Bruins, who lost Game 1 by a score of 1-0, haven't been shut out in consecutive playoff games since Martin Brodeur of the Devils blanked them twice in 1995. On Sunday, Boston was clearly not in the mood to be blanked for a second straight game.
The Bruins, who took just 25 shots Game 1, unloaded 18 in the first period and made it a point to push Detroit around. The Wings are one of the NHL’s least physical teams and don't often get pulled into scraps and scrums. Detroit uses its turn-the-other-cheek approach to draw cheap power plays against aggressive opponents, but Boston felt it hadn't been physical enough the Red Wings on Friday. There was ample pushing and shoving after whistles on Sunday. As the first period ended, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and Detroit's Brendan Smith began tussling near center ice. The 6-foot-9 Chara challenged Smith, who wisely declined to go -- he's listed at seven inches shorter than Chara --- but the message was clear: The Wings were in for a bumpy ride.
Here are some notes and observations from a rough and tough Game 2 at TD Garden:
• With Boston playing a more physical game, Detroit was on the power play six times, but couldn’t muster any goals. The Bruins did an excellent job of making the Wings work hard on their zone-entry attempts. Each time Detroit tried a hard pass around the endboards to gain control on the opposite side of the ice, Boston was aggressive about getting to the puck first, either because goalie Tuukka Rask managed to cut the passes off behind the net, or because their defensemen made sure to squeeze Detroit's forwards against the boards when they made a play for the loose puck. The Bruins' ever-annoying Brad Marchand was much more involved in the action on Sunday than he was in Game 1. He made things difficult along the walls for the Wings as they tried to recover possession and set up their offense after dump-ins.
• With both teams missing players who were either injured -- Boston’s Chris Kelly (back) and Daniel Paille (head); Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg (back) -- or sick (Matt Bartkowski of the B’s had the flu), it was a day of firsts. The first three goal-scorers in the contest – Justin Florek and Reilly Smith for Boston; Luke Glendening for Detroit -- got the first points of their postseason careers.
• Jimmy Howard broke a cardinal rule of goaltending and gave the Bruins their first goal of the series. The rule is this: If you have to skate out of your net to make a hard clear, always make it to a clear spot up the ice or against the sideboards. With Boston's Florek bearing down, Howard muffed the clear, rifling it towards the boards and off of teammate Brendan Smith’s legs. Florek didn’t wait for the puck to settle down; he jumped on the freebie and wristed it into the net before Howard could scramble back into his crease. “It’s something I’ll never forget,” Florek said later. “The first, one, you don’t care how you get it, you just want to contribute ... We played with a chip on our shoulders all day. We wanted the puck. We wanted the game.”
• The Bruins, who had just one power play on Friday, earned a brief five-on-three advantage midway through the opening period and finally capitalized. Patrice Bergeron fired a shot from the high slot, which Howard stopped, but a swarm of Boston skaters crashed the net. Multiple black-and-gold clad players had a shot at the rebound, but it was Smith who was able to jam it in and make the score 2-0 at 10:35 of the first.
• The Red Wings were able regain their composure in the second period, getting lots of puck possession and eventually cutting the Bruins’ lead to 2-1. Detroit's Darren Helm recovered a bad pass, faked out Jarome Iginla at the blue line, and sent a shot into traffic. It deflected off several players, with Glendening getting credit for the gritty goal that briefly put Boston on its heels.
• After a quiet first game, the combination of center David Krejci with Iginla and Milan Lucic was strong for Boston, especially in the final 30 minutes. The three spent most of their time on the ice in the offensive zone, keeping the Wings on their heels. The line worked a nifty give-and-go play to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead at 18:16 of the second period.
• Lucic was fortunate to be playing on Sunday. In the opening game, he gave in to frustration and speared Detroit’s Danny DeKeyser in the groin away from the play. It was the second time this season that Lucic has used that impolite tactic to leave a foe doubled over, and he was lucky to avoid a suspension (he was fined for the first incident). To his credit, he acknowledged the misdeed and apologized for the dirty play.
• After spending the game’s early power plays at his traditional perch on the point, Chara was moved to the front of the slot in the third period and the shift paid off. Iginla threw a bad angle shot at Howard from the right side, and Chara used his extra-long reach to get a piece of it. The tip didn’t find the back of the net, but Chara's whack at the rebound got behind Howard to make the score 4-1 early in the period.
• Essentially, Boston did its best to disrupt the Wings’ game plan. As the series shifts to Detroit for Game 3, the Red Wings must move the puck more quickly and commit to plays sooner to have a chance at success.
• Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall knew the club would be in for a hard series after the first game. “Of course they were going to come out harder tonight,” he said. “They were better than us. Much better. We didn’t work hard enough to get zone time. We didn’t win battles on the boards. We didn’t do the little things. We get to go home now, but we can’t count on that.” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock concurred: “I didn’t think we were very good,” he said. “I thought they were way better than us in Game 2. They were engaged. They won the battles. They were quick. We were slow.”
• Although the Red Wings’ active streak of reaching the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season is impressive, the NHL record is held by the Bruins, who appeared in 29 straight from 1968 to '96.
• After the Bruins beat the Red Wings 4-1 on Oct. 5,Detroit dropped Boston four straight times, outscoring the Bruins 13-5 over those four games, including the 1-0 shutout in Game 1 on Friday.