Did anyone seriously think the Bruins could lose this game, in this city, on this weekend?
Our team. Our town. Our holiday.
The Bruins defeated the estimable Detroit Red Wings, 4-1, on Easter Sunday, squaring their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series, 1-1. Playing in front of the customary 17,565 — some of whom probably gave up swearing, drinking, and/or fighting for Lent — the Bruins came out in smash-mouth mode and took it to the visitors, erasing any ridiculous possibility that this would be the final home game of a dominant 2013-14 season.
“We knew we could have been better than we were last game,’’ said Shawn Thornton, who was tagged with a penalty 92 seconds after the opening faceoff. “We talked about it. I think that the guys did a good job of bringing energy today.’’
“We had a little more jump in our game,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “We’ve got to grasp what we did and bottle that up. It’s going to be important for us to have that kind of intensity and determination to beat this team.’’
The game was played on the eve of what promises to be one of the more emotional days in the history of Boston. The game was played on the one-year anniversary of David Ortiz declaring, “This is our [expletive] city.’’ It was on national television, and there was simply no way the Bruins were slinking out of town trailing two games to none to the eighth-seeded Red Wings. No team in the Hub does Boston Strong better than the local hockey team. On the Garden ice, all the words are fighting words.
Game 3 will be Tuesday night in Detroit at Joe Louis Arena.
Joe Louis is an aptly named venue given the pugnacious theme (14 penalties, countless scrums) of Easter Sunday on Causeway Street. In the wake of Friday night’s 1-0 loss to the Wings the Bruins came out swinging, and perhaps the lasting memory of Game 2 will be the amusing sight of young Wings defenseman Brendan Smith (brother of Bruins winger Reilly Smith), skating backward while chirping at Zdeno Chara after the horn sounded to end the first period. Chara smiled as Smith tried to throw a punch at the Slovakian treetop. Chara looked like a tall teenager, extending his arm and holding the top of his 9-year-old brother’s head while letting the little kid throw haymakers into the wind.
Predictably, Gary Cooper-Chara said it was “nothing, really. Just playoff hockey,’’ but Reilly Smith assessed his brother’s challenge and said, “Probably not the smartest decision he’s ever made, but he was fighting for his teammates.’’
Frustration had been building after the Bruins were shut out in Game 1, but the logjam broke when Justin Florek took advantage of sloppy puckhandling by Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, converting a snap shot from just inside the blue line to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead at 7:28 of the first. Reilly Smith made it 2-0, sneaking in behind Howard midway through the first.
“It was good to get those first two early,’’ said Smith. “I think it just gave us a little more energy and added a little extra intensity to the game.’’
The Bruins lost their edge early in the second, and when Detroit cut the lead to 2-1 there was some tension in the building. All the weight was lifted when Milan Lucic converted a nifty pass from Jarome Iginla just before the end of the second to make it 3-1. Lucic’s foot was bleeding when he scored the game-breaker. He’d cut himself with his own skate earlier in the shift. The big winger was stitched up between periods.
“I taped an aspirin to it,’’ said Lucic. “A couple of stitches, but a long way from the heart, right?’’
Chara put the game away with a rebound goal through the five hole in the third minute of the third. He was on the ice most of the time when the Bruins successfully killed seven penalties.
“We knew that first game we didn’t play our best,’’ said Chara. “We wanted to make sure that we were better today, and I think we were.’’
Once it got to 4-1, it was party time on Causeway Street. It was time to head over to Fenway. Time to say a prayer on Boylston Street. Time to fly to Detroit for Game 3.