What began as baby night in Detroit ended with another efficient win from the disciplined adults who wear the black and gold of the Boston Bruins.
Down two thanks to a pair of goals from new Red Wing fathers Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall, the Bruins methodically mounted a comeback and wound up 3-2 winners in overtime at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday.
The impressive victory gave Boston a 3-1 series lead and put them one victory away from meeting the rival Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.
No doubt the Canadiens were watching this one, and if there was a lesson to be learned, it was the Bruins are patient and stick to their disciplined ways. They have four solid lines, three pairs of defencemen who can contribute offensively, and one of the best netminders in the business in Tuukka Rask. Boston also enjoyed another solid evening in the face-off circle by winning 32 of 59 draws.
Rask, meanwhile, now has an impressive save percentage of .966 after four playoff outings this spring. He held his teammates in the game for the opening 20 minutes because Detroit was the dominant team in the early going.
The Red Wings received an emotional lift from the return of captain Henrik Zetterberg, who due to back surgery had not played since helping Sweden to a 4-2 victory over the Czech Republic on the opening night of the men's Olympic hockey tournament in Sochi.
New fathers Kronwall, whose wife gave birth to the couple's first child, Douglas, and Datsyuk, whose wife gave birth to their second child, a daughter Vasilisa, set each other up for a goal apiece to give Detroit a 2-0 lead before the game was 25 minutes old.
Then, the Bruins began their comeback.
"They got better as the game got on," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We got a good push to start, but Rask kept it close in the first period."
"Tuukka is a young goaltender and he keeps maturing and he keeps getting better," Bruins coach Claude Julien added. "He kept us in there, especially in the first period.
"After the first we started to settle down. They came out and played with a lot of emotion. After they took a 2-0 lead, we settled down a bit. We started to put pucks in areas where we excel."
The Red Wings looked like a team out of gas at the end. Sure, they received a boost from Zetterberg's return, the good vibrations from the new fathers in the dressing room, but that boost lost steam after the game hit the halfway mark. The Red Wings found out that usual No. 1 goalie Jimmy Howard would not be able to start because of the flu.
Monster answers the call
Babcock already had circled Howard as his starter on the lineup card he submitted to the off-ice officials. But Howard retired to the dressing room after the pre-game warm-up to inform the coaching staff he would not be able to play.
That meant 29-year-old backup Jonas Gustavsson was pressed into action. His last post-season game was way back in 2009 when he steered Farjestad BK to the Swedish Elitserien championship.
But Gustavsson, the former Toronto Maple Leaf, was sound in his Stanley Cup playoff debut. He stopped 37 of 40 shots. The game-winner from Jarome Iginla was a deflection from a Dougie Hamilton shot.
The loss was a downer for the Red Wings' emotional day. Even Babcock was put on notice from his wife. On Wednesday he was asked about the status of expectant fathers Datsyuk and Zetterberg, to which he replied, "I would assume both would play. Why wouldn't they? They're not giving birth, the wives are."
In his opening remarks after the Red Wings morning skate, Babcock apologized.
"Just before we get started," he said, "I got an e-mail from my wife saying I'm not allowed to say the things I did yesterday about giving birth. So I apologize. I didn't know guys were that sensitive."
Game 5 is Saturday afternoon in Boston.
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