DETROIT — As Kevan Miller tried to clear the puck, it went up and over the glass. It was 9:57 of the third period in Tuesday night’s game, with the game and the series lead still in doubt. The Bruins had limited the Red Wings’ chances, keeping them off the scoreboard, but they had yet to put the game away.
Boston had a two-goal lead, a lead the team had held since the first period. But a two-goal lead can be tenuous, especially with the likes of Pavel Datsyuk on the opposing team.
“That was kind of their chance,” Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton said. “Definitely a critical kill, where if they score it’s a different game. Everyone just stepped up and killed it.”
Two minutes later, despite some good chances by the Red Wings (and one by the aforementioned Datsyuk), the Bruins were on their way to a 3-0 shutout in Game 3 of their first-round series against Detroit.
The win, which put them ahead, 2-1, in the series, was their first at Joe Louis Arena since March 11, 2007, with the Bruins suffering two losses in the building this season. It wouldn’t happen again, not Tuesday night.
“Our penalty kill has a lot of confidence — so does our power play, for that matter — but they showed poise and made some adjustments,” coach Claude Julien said. “I thought they had some good looks there at times, but again our goaltender came up big when he had to, our guys blocked shots and boxed out players when they had to.”
The Bruins’ penalty kill continued to be perfect in the series, with the Red Wings now 0 for 9, and Tuukka Rask continued to be nearly perfect. Though the goaltender wasn’t particularly taxed Tuesday night, he has allowed just two goals in three games to the Red Wings. Rask has a 0.67 goals against average, and has stopped 82 of 84 shots.
“I don’t think we’ve given them that many scoring chances,” Rask said. “They had four shots for a long time. They had the power play, a couple shots, but we limited them.”
As Rask added, “The defense has been tremendous.”
And so has he, including a sprawling third-period stop on Justin Abdelkader that helped the Bruins retain their advantage.
“Obviously it starts with Tuukka,” Hamilton said. “It’s pretty easy for us to play in front of him when he’s pretty much going to stop every puck. I think that kind of deflates them, as well. They want to look for better chances instead of just getting pucks on net or whatever they’re thinking. Our forwards are helping the D out, so it’s a whole team defensive effort.”
A whole team offensive effort, too. The Bruins have gotten goals from surprising sources over the last two games, with Justin Florek and Reilly Smith getting their first career playoff goals Sunday. Two more players added theirs Tuesday night, with Hamilton and Jordan Caron getting the Bruins on the board in the first period.
Hamilton got his at 9:00 of the period, the first of two times he made Darren Helm look foolish in the span of a couple of minutes. The defenseman beat Helm on a one-man rush, ripping off a wrist shot that put the Bruins ahead.
Then, at 15:48, Caron got his goal after an impressive play by Shawn Thornton to recognize a terrible line change by the Red Wings and take advantage of it.
“The hit was there [on Brendan Smith],” Thornton said. “I obviously laid off on it. He was in a pretty vulnerable position. I probably could have really hurt him. But I laid off and the puck got turned over. Once I turned around and got to the blue line, I saw there was a little bit of ice.”
There was a lot of ice, with no one between Thornton and Howard. The winger got off a shot, with Howard making the save, but Caron — who had just come on the ice — put it past Howard.
“Jordy, he hasn’t had the easiest year, he’s been in and out of the lineup, and then when you need him he always steps up,” Rask said.
The Bruins finished the first period with 22 chances on net. The Red Wings had just 10, and Detroit left the ice to a smattering of boos.
“Very satisfied,” Matt Bartkowski said of the team’s defensive performance overall.
“A lot of that has to do with our forwards being able to come back and do their jobs properly. It makes a world of difference for us. We just have to worry about the middle of the ice.
“They didn’t get very many chances from inside of the dots, which is our main goal. Works pretty well.”
Much of what they did worked pretty well for the Bruins Tuesday night, especially in the first period. And, after making it through that penalty in the third, making it through the final charge from the Red Wings, the Bruins watched as Patrice Bergeron’s empty netter slid past the goal line, assuring them the win and giving them control of the series.