With their first chance to eliminate the Red Wings on Saturday at TD Garden, the Bruins showed how much they’ve seemingly grown (three straight overtimes in Game 7s in the past three years during the first round) as they dispatched Detroit, 4-2, in Game 5 to take the first round series, 4-1. The win sets up what should be a must-see event in the second round vs. Montreal, Boston’s fiercest rival, for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Boston got by Detroit in much easier than expected fashion thanks to superb defense and goaltending by Tuukka Rask (31 saves; six goals allowed all series), a great power play (6 for 16) and impressive scoring depth (10 players scored and 15 had points).
“It was all about establishing a lead and creating some momentum early,” said Bruins left wing Milan Lucic, who led the team with three goals in the series. “We played our game and dictated everything which was the most important thing. There were different guys stepping up at different times.”
The Garden was loud from the start and fans barely had a chance to sit down before they were jumping up again as Loui Eriksson netted a power-play goal just 3:27 into the first period. It was all thanks to another nice rush by Dougie Hamilton in the offensive zone and then Eriksson was there to put in the rebound. The great Pavel Datsyuk answered late in the second period with a power play goal-only Detroit’s second of the series-following a save by Rask and a rebound in traffic. Boston rallied quickly as Zdeno Chara delivered an extremely timely power play goal with 3.8 second left in the second. Patrice Bergeron found Chara for the blast from the point past Jonas Gustavsson (29 saves) that gave the Bruins a 2-1 advantage.
Bergeron called Chara’s goal “a morale booster” and it clearly carried over to the third period when Lucic scored on a one-timer from Torey Krug less than five minutes in for the all-important two-goal lead. That was the game-winner as Henrik Zetterberg pulled Detroit to within 3-2 but Jarome Iginla clinched it with an empty-netter. Bruins right wing Shawn Thornton talked about how “we have a lot of experience in here (referring to the dressing room). We realize that you can’t let up at any point in the game or the series. Detroit was rolling four lines and we were able to do the same.”
After unexpectedly dropping Game 1 on their home ice, Boston won the last four games of the series to earn a lengthy rest before what should be a very intense series with Montreal. What they'll be saying: The NHL couldn’t have scripted it any better with the Bruins facing the Red Wings in the first round and now another Original Six team - Canadiens - in the second round. Locally, ratings for the B’s have been some of their best ever and that should continue vs. Montreal. No team will be better rested than those two since they were the first ones to advance out of the first round.
Datsyuk is a special player (three goals, two assists in the series) and while Zetterberg was understandably not himself in his Game 4 return, he looked more like the guy with 114 career postseason points coming into Game 5 (he added a goal and an assist). Backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson received his second straight start in Game 5 and even though he lost, you could argue that he played better than Jimmy Howard in Games 2 and 3. Howard was the backup on Saturday as he dealt with a nasty case of the flu.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter:@RichSlate