In Game 1, Milan Lucic wielded his stick in the wrong way. Lucic’s cheap shot made Danny DeKeyser see stars and sucked $5,000 from Lucic’s wallet.
In Game 2, Lucic used his stick for a more noble purpose.
The Bruins roughed up the Red Wings in the first period and checked them out of the rink. The Bruins attempted 27 shots to the Wings’ 17.
But the Wings punched back to make it a 2-1 game in the second. Lucic was on the ice for Luke Glendening’s bad-bounce goal past Tuukka Rask.
Lucic smothered any hope of a Detroit rally.
With 1:44 remaining in the second, Lucic scored the game-changing goal. After playing give-and-go with Jarome Iginla, Lucic snapped a shot that ticked off Jimmy Howard’s stick and slowly rolled over the line. The way the Bruins had been staggering, they could have entered the second intermission tied up. Instead, they took a commanding two-goal lead into the third Sunday en route to a series-tying 4-1 win.
“As poor as we were, I thought in the second period, we got the game to right where we wanted it,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “It’s 2-1 and we’re going to be going into the third. It’s a simple two-on-two cross play and we don’t execute. Now we’re down, 3-1, and the game’s over.”
Two games in, Lucic, Iginla, and David Krejci have yet to find their rhythm. They had zero presence in Game 1. They had only four of the Bruins’ 25 shots on Howard. Krejci and his musclemen chased the game instead of commanding it.
They were a little better in Game 2. The line combined for five of the Bruins’ 29 shots on goal. Krejci made his mark more as a penalty killer (3:13 of shorthanded ice time, most of any forward) than playmaker.
“We felt like we didn’t leave enough out there in the first game,” Lucic said. “Sometimes in a series, it takes a little bit to get things going. As it’s gone on, it got a little bit better here today. But I think moving forward, we’ve still got to get better to get to the top of our game.”
They were on the wrong end of Glendening’s goal. Iginla controlled the puck in the offensive zone. But Kyle Quincey swiped the puck off Iginla’s stick. Smith recovered the puck and started the counterattack.
Because Iginla and Lucic were caught deep in the Detroit zone, the Wings launched themselves through center ice. Drew Miller gained a clean entry into the offensive zone by carrying the puck over the blue line. Iginla hustled back, but Darren Helm pulled past him to snap a shot on goal. The puck glanced off Glendening’s stick, caromed off his left leg, and hopped over Rask.
It was a fluky bounce. But the Bruins paid the price for playing with matches in the period. They dismissed all the good work they did in the first by allowing the Wings to control the puck. The Wings turned the game upside down by recording a 21-10 shot-attempt advantage in the second.
Such are situations when difference-making players grab the game by the throat.
The game-changing shift didn’t start well. Lucic tried to line up Brendan Smith for one of his trademark wallops against the end boards. But Lucic tripped over himself and sailed into the wall. The left wing tore open his foot, a cut that would require stitches between periods.
Lucic thought about going to the bench. He stayed on instead. That was a good thing.
Torey Krug triggered the sequence by controlling the puck in the neutral zone. Krug’s first read was to Iginla, who was posting up on the strong-side boards, but the Wings would have sealed Iginla off.
So Krug waited for a seam to develop to Lucic in the neutral zone. Once Lucic received Krug’s pass, he attacked Smith and Quincey. Once Lucic gave the puck to Iginla, he drove to the net. Smith got his stick tangled with Lucic and couldn’t recover. Neither could the Wings after Lucic’s goal beat Howard.
“I just didn’t get enough of it,” Howard said. “I got a lot of it, but I didn’t get enough of it and it went in.”
When the Bruins were howling in the first, they leaned hard on their second and third lines. No. 3 left wing Justin Florek scored the opening goal. Reilly Smith, the second-line right wing, jammed home a loose puck on the power play after No. 3 right wing Loui Eriksson did good things working the front of the net. At even strength, the Bruins’ best matchup is their third line against Detroit’s No. 3 pairing of Brian Lashoff and Jakub Kindl.
The first line is seeing a lot of Quincey and DeKeyser. Both defensemen are mobile and good at moving the puck. But they don’t have the thickness to fend off Lucic and Iginla in the ice’s dark-alley areas.
“The biggest challenge for those guys is they’re going to be checked a little tighter in the playoffs,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “You’ve got to battle through those situations and continue to be a real productive line for us. I thought [Sunday] was better. Obviously the first game, they had a tough game. But I thought they bounced back well in this afternoon’s game.”
The Wings will have last change in Games 3 and 4. They’ll deploy the players they prefer against the Krejci line. But the big boys are strong and fast and skilled enough to overpower any defensemen they draw. If they slip into their groove, the Bruins will have three powerful puck-possession lines. The Wings won’t have the personnel to fight back.