For the first time in 57 years, the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins faced off during the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the Original Six matchup didn’t disappoint.
It was a game within a game, as goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Howard put on a spectacular show that kept the game scoreless for 57 minutes.
It was Howard that earned the victory, though, as Detroit’s netminder made 25 saves en route to his first Game 1 playoff victory, shutting out the President Trophy-winning Bruins 1-0.
"Unbelievable," forward Daniel Alfredsson said of Howard. "I thought he played the puck really well outside his crease and looked poised. Great first saves. Was in position the whole night and looked comfortable. A little bit lucky on a couple but overall unbelievable performance."
With solid goaltending at both ends of the ice, the two teams struggled to capitalize on scoring opportunities.
Livonia, Mich., native Torey Krug had a prime chance to give Boston a one-goal advantage midway through the second period, but Howard made a terrific left toe save to keep the game scoreless.
Darren Helm had a scoring opportunity of his own early in the third, but was denied by Rask, who made 23 saves in the loss.
In the end, the Red Wings needed only one goal to steal Game 1 in Boston, which they received from Pavel Datsyuk late in the final period. After Howard made a game-saving stop on Milan Lucic’s shot, Datsyuk executed a play few NHL players can pull off, reaching back to snag a pass from Johan Franzen before weaving his way up the ice. The center hesitated ever so slightly and fired a shot past Rask.
"It’s we know we need to shoot everything," said Datsyuk, who netted the game-winning goal with 3:01 left to play. "They shoot everything and you know it’s a one-shot difference. I just shoot and actually we make a nice play on the blue line and Abby (Justin Abdelkader) made a nice screen for me."
After missing nearly half of the regular season because of injury, Datsyuk’s skillful goal was a welcoming sight.
"The puck probably went four or five feet behind him," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "He was able to pick it up, do things no one else can do. We’ve seen it before and he did it again."
The Bruins pulled Rask with just over one minute left to play, but were unable to even the score. The game marked just the second time Boston was shut out during the 2013-14 season, dating back to 2-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 10.
With the victory, the No. 8 seed Red Wings improved to 4-1 against the No. 1 seed Bruins this season, and hold a one-game advantage in the playoff series.
"Well, obviously you want to get in and you want to establish yourself in the series especially when you’re the lower seed," coach Mike Babcock said. "Sometimes when the upper seed gets the upper hand right away you start questioning whether you’re good enough.
"We know we’re good enough, but it’s one thing to know you’re good enough and another thing to show you’re good enough. So I thought it was important for us to get started in the series so we can continue to get better as a group."
The Game 1 victory was pivotal for the young Red Wings team, which saw four players — Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Luke Glendening — make their Stanley Cup playoff debut Friday. Detroit used the youngsters to its advantage in the win, executing the club’s game plan by using their speed effectively.
"That’s the way we have to play to have success against this team," Kronwall said. "We know they’re a big, strong, heavy team. They’re so deep, too. We have to play to our strength and that’s playing to the puck and with a lot of speed."
Although it was a relief to steal the first game of the series in Boston, the Wings know they still have to earn three more victories against one of the best teams in the league in order to survive and advance in their quest for the Stanley Cup.
"They didn’t win the Presidents’ Trophy for not being a good team, so we got to be prepared," forward Drew Miller said. "We know they’re going to come out hungry next game and we have to play our best game, too."
The Red Wings and Bruins will meet in Game 2 of the first-round series on Sunday at 3 p.m.