BOSTON – At one end of the ice, Jimmy Howard made his best save of the game. At the other, Pavel Datsyuk scored the only goal.
All within 30 seconds.
Datsyuk’s goal with 3:01 left gave the Detroit Red Wings a 1-0 win in their playoff opener as they grabbed home-ice advantage away from the top-seeded Boston Bruins on Friday night.
“Sometimes when the upper seed gets the upper hand right away, you start questioning whether you’re good enough,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “And we know we’re good enough.”
The eighth-seeded Red Wings showed it in the regular season when they went 3-1 against the Bruins, who won the Presidents’ Cup for the best record.
“I don’t think there were any secrets in tonight’s game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Both teams played really tight defence.”
The Bruins hope to get more scoring opportunities Sunday when they host Game 2 of the best-of-seven series, the first between the Original Six teams since 1957.
They also hope to reclaim the home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs that they worked all season to get.
“I’ll take home-ice advantage any time,” Julien said, “but that doesn’t mean you can’t win on the road … which is what we have to do in this series if we plan on winning this.”
The goal came when Datsyuk carried the puck from the right side to the left in Boston’s zone while teammate Justin Abdelkader skated up the slot between Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton. Both defencemen fell as Datsyuk put a 30-footer past the left glove of goalie Tuukka Rask, who may have been screened.
“It’s a good start,” Datsyuk said, “but we know there are many tough games (ahead).”
Datsyuk, who missed 16 games with a knee injury before returning April 4, wasn’t Detroit’s only late-game star.
Howard made 25 saves in his third career playoff shutout, and his glove stop of Milan Lucic’s deflection of Jarome Iginla’s shot from the right was a beauty.
“It was pretty lucky,” Howard said. Lucic “stuck his stick out and got a lot on it and it just sort of spun (off) my glove and I was just able to get enough of it.”
The Bruins scored the third-most goals during the regular season and had just two regulation losses in their last 23 games.
But Detroit played unusually tight defence.
“We’re going to have to expect that for the rest of the series and find ways to create some offence,” Boston’s Patrice Bergeron said.
Friday’s loss was the Bruins’ first playoff game since they dropped the deciding Game 6 of last season’s Stanley Cup final in Boston. They lost 3-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks after allowing the tying and winning goals in the last 76 seconds.
Datsyuk got his first playoff goal since Game 3 of Detroit’s second-round playoff series against Chicago last year. The Red Wings had a 3-1 lead in that series against the Blackhawks, and then lost three in a row.
So they know a 1-0 lead can disappear quickly.
“Just forget about this one and just keep going to the next game,” Datsyuk said. “We know they (will) come back more aggressive.”
Boston played without four regulars, including defencemen Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller, both sidelined with the flu. Center Chris Kelly sat out with a back injury and left wing Daniel Paille had a head injury from a collision in the next-to-last game of the regular season.
For Detroit, centre Henrik Zetterberg has been out since Feb. 8 with a back condition that required surgery, and defenceman Jonathan Ericsson hasn’t played since March 14 because of a broken finger.
NOTES: Seven players saw their first playoff action, Detroit’s Luke Glendening, Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar, and Boston’s Justin Florek, Corey Potter and Reilly Smith. … Smith became the first Bruin to face his brother in a playoff games since Phil Esposito played against Chicago goalie Tony Esposito in 1975. Brendan Smith plays defence for Detroit. … The Red Wings are in the playoffs for the 23rd straight time.