DETROIT >> For the first 25 minutes of Thursday night’s Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena, the Detroit Red Wings road the boost of energy they got from the return of their captain Henrik Zetterberg.
Then the tables turned from that point heavily in the Boston Bruins’ favor.
And because of it the Bruins now hold a commanding 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference best-of-seven series first round series and could advance with a win Saturday afternoon in Boston after their 3-2 overtime win over the Wings.
“I thought they got better as the game went on,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought we had a real good push at the start, but they stuck with it and as the game went on we had more holes in us defensively. We hang around, hang around and then in the third and overtime when the game was tilted.”
It was Zetterberg’s first game since undergoing successful surgery on Feb. 21 to remove part of a disc which was rubbing against a nerve.
Jonas Gustavsson was the unexpected starter in goal after Jimmy Howard came down with the flu. Howard led the team out on the ice for pre-game warmups as if he was starting. He however was unable to sit on the bench during the game.
It was Gustavsson’s second unexpected start against the Bruins this season. He led the Wings to a 3-2 win over Boston after Howard suffered a bruised hand during an earlier game. In that start, Howard also led the team on the ice for warmups.
Babcock said he knew Zetterberg’s return would give the team a boost.
“We knew that would probably be the case,” Babcock said. “That line had good jump early. I thought out power play was really dangerous early. I don’t think as the game went on we were as dangerous anymore. To me I didn’t know if we had a lot of good players, especially out of our young guys, when I go through and look at them, I’m not like he had a great game, he had a great game at all. They were dressed.”
With six minutes and 28 seconds left in overtime, Jarome Iginla got a piece of Dougie Hamilton’s shot from the point to beat Jonas Gustavsson with six minutes and 28 seconds left in overtime.
Torey Krug and Milan Lucic also scored for Boston and Tuukka Rask made 35 saves.
Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk scored for Detroit and Gustavsson stopped 37 shots.
“I think he was shooting to my left side,” Gustavsson said of the game winner. “I think it deflected, then it hit a leg and goes in. It’s a playoff goal. That’s how you win games, you put the puck in the net, get rebounds or deflections. That’s the way it is. We just have to do the same thing to them and hopefully we get the game winner next time.”
The Wings had a 2-0 lead in the game five minutes into the second period.
“We played a pretty good game,” Gustavsson said. “We played the way we need to be successful. I think we can still improve. I think the guys did a good job. We were up 2-0 and those are the games you want to win when you score two goals, but the big thing for us is to get the positives from this game and take it into the next game and come out with a victory.”
Trailing 2-1 heading into the third, the Bruins tied the game just a minute and 15 seconds in when a wide-open Lucic deposited a pass from behind the net by Carl Soderberg.
Brad Marchand could have put the Bruins up just past the midway point of the period, but the forward missed his second wide-open net of the game and third of the series.
The Wings doubled their lead before the five-minute mark of the second on Datsyuk’s second tally of the playoffs. Kronwall gloved down a rebound behind the net and fed a short soft pass to Datsyuk and he calmly put the puck into the open net.
Krug got Boston on the board with a power play goal with two seconds left in Todd Bertuzzi’s interference penalty that negated a Wings man advantage. Patrice Bergeron won a draw back to Krug and his one-timer beat Gustavsson.
Earlier in the period, Gustavsson stoned Gregory Campbell’s pointblank shot early in the second period.
The Wings didn’t take long to strike on their first power play of the net as Kronwall blasted one in from the point four seconds into a double minor to Justin Florek for high sticking Drew Miller.
After a faceoff win from Pavel Datsyuk, Bertuzzi setup in front of Rask before Kronwall fired it home.
The Wings were 0-for-9 with the man advantage prior to that goal.
It was also Detroit’s first goal in the first period in the series.
The goal was just Kronwall’s fifth in his postseason career and first since 2011. Four of his five goals have come on the power play.
Boston had two quality chances to score in the first period, one by Reilly Smith, who hit the post after splitting the Wings’ defense, and the other by Marchand.
The winner of this series will face Montreal, which swept Tampa Bay, in the next round.