BOSTON – The Boston Bruins worked all season to get home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
It vanished with a flick of Pavel Datsyuk’s wrist.
Just like that, on Datsyuk’s goal with 3:01 left, the Detroit Red Wings got the upper hand with a 1-0 win in the opener of the best-of-seven playoff series Friday night.
“We know we’re good enough,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said, “but it’s one thing to know you’re good enough and another thing to show it.”
The Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy for the best record in the regular season—although they were 1-3 against the Red Wings—but were locked in a tight game in which neither team had many solid scoring opportunities. The eighth-seeded Red Wings made their last one count.
“It’s a good start,” Datsyuk said, “but we know there are many tough games (ahead).”
Game 2 of the first playoff matchup between the Original Six teams in 57 years is set for Sunday in Boston. And Detroit doesn’t have to win there again to advance.
“I’ll take home-ice advantage any time,” Bruins coach Claude 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.”
Datsyuk, still not fully recovered from a knee injury, wasn’t Detroit’s only late-game star. His goal came moments after a brilliant glove save by Jimmy Howard on Milan Lucic’s deflection in front of the net.
“It was pretty lucky,” said Howard, who had 25 saves in his third career playoff shutout. 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 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 goalie Tuukka Rask’s left glove.
“Abby did a great job, drove the middle, created space for him,” Babcock said.
That may have distracted Rask.
“You just try to get the puck in your eyes and I couldn’t,” Rask said. “Usually, he tries to make a pass.”
Puck handlers had very little space throughout the game.
“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.
The Bruins scored the third-most goals during the regular season and had just two regulation losses in their last 23 games.
Friday’s loss was their 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, who missed 16 games with a knee injury before returning April 4, 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.
Boston had a decent scoring opportunity in the first minute of the third period when Brad Marchand stole the puck in the Detroit zone and fired a 20-footer from Howard’s right. But the goalie stopped the shot with his pad.
The Red Wings had a better chance two minutes later when Rask made a save, and then stuck his right pad out to kick aside Darren Helm’s shot on the rebound.
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 suffered in 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.