When the Detroit Red Wings took the ice for their season opener, coach Mike Babcock’s team already had one significant advantage.
The Red Wings hadn’t played the night before. The Boston Bruins had.
“A month from now, or two months from now, it doesn’t matter. But right now it does matter, when you start and you play back to back, it’s wear and tear on you for sure,” Babcock said.
Gustav Nyquist’s power-play goal in the second period lifted Detroit to a 2-1 victory over the Bruins on Thursday night. Boston managed only 17 shots on goal and just nine through the first two periods.
The Bruins beat Philadelphia in their opener Wednesday.
Justin Abdelkader also scored for Detroit, which lost to the Bruins in the first round of last season’s playoffs. Patrice Bergeron scored Boston’s only goal Thursday.
Jimmy Howard had 16 saves for the Red Wings. Detroit was without star forward Pavel Datsyuk, who is recovering from a separated shoulder.
Boston nearly tied it late in the third after Detroit’s Johan Franzen was called for elbowing Bergeron, but Brad Marchand’s shot pinged off the post, and Zdeno Chara was called for goaltender interference seconds later, ending the power play with 1:46 remaining in the game.
“Any time you have back to backs with a couple of hours flight, you always feel it,” Marchand said. “We just didn’t play our system very well. We weren’t getting pucks deep and we were turning it over at the blue line.”
Nyquist led the Red Wings with 28 goals last season, and Detroit overcame injuries to players like Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to extend its postseason streak. The Red Wings made the playoffs for the 23rd straight time, but they were eliminated by Boston in five games.
The Bruins struggled to match Detroit’s energy early in Thursday’s game. Boston didn’t manage a shot on goal until 12:01 into the first period, although Bergeron scored on that one, beating Howard with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle for an unassisted goal.
“Howie sits there for 25 minutes, doesn’t get any shots, and the first one goes over his shoulder,” Babcock said. “You’re saying to yourself, `Well, this isn’t very good.’ But I thought he really had good focus. Howie’s been good. He’s been dialed in. He obviously worked real hard in the offseason.”
The Red Wings tied it in the second when Danny DeKeyser’s shot from the blue line was deflected by Abdelkader past Tuukka Rask, the Bruins’ Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender.
“We knew it was big to come out to a big start because they played last night, wear on their `D’ as much as we could,” Abdelkader said. “It was good. They’re one of the favorites. They’re one of the teams everyone is talking about to be Stanley Cup favorites, so it’s good for us.”
Abdelkader’s goal came moments after a shot by Chara slipped past Howard, only to bounce off the right post.
Rusk had almost no chance on Nyquist’s goal, which came while Bergeron was in the penalty box for slashing. Darren Helm found Nyquist in front, and the 25-year-old Swede scored from point-blank range with 5:14 remaining in the period.
“We played a pretty solid defensive game,” Rask said. “The second period was real bad, by our standards.”
NOTES: Boston’s season low in shots in 2013-14 was 17. It happened twice. … Franzen was initially credited with Detroit’s first goal. He and Abdelkader were both in the area of the deflection, but the goal was eventually awarded to Abdelkader. … Rask had 22 saves. … Datsyuk was unable to play Thursday, but he did suit up for player introductions before the game and received a nice cheer from the home crowd at Joe Louis Arena.