BOSTON -- If the Boston Bruins hadn't lowered the boom on their first-round Stanley Cup playoff opponent in Game 2, this series could have taken an ugly turn for the team with the best record in the NHL.
Fortunately for the Bruins, they played with more bite and more fight, and that physical presence led them to a 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday at TD Garden.
In Game 1 on Friday, the Bruins were hesitant with their physical game. They lost puck battles and were outworked in the corners and along the walls for the majority of the game, and it resulted in Detroit beating Boston, 1-0.
The Bruins wouldn't use their four-day layoff as an excuse for their inability to create that physical style of play in Game 1, but they stressed the need to emphasize their physicality prior to Game 2 and it was much more noticeable as they evened the series at one game apiece.
"It's important for us to really grasp what we did tonight and really bottle that up and know that's what it's going to take to beat this team," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "They're labeled an eighth seed, but let's not kid ourselves."
With the reputation as a speedy, crafty and finesse team, the Red Wings entered the series knowing they couldn't match Boston's size and strength. Detroit's calm mentality worked to its advantage in Game 1.
That game plan was even evident during on the off-day on Saturday. After Bruins forward Milan Lucic was fined $5,000 for spearing Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser in the groin area, Detroit downplayed the situation, saying it was just part of the game. Neither Red Wings coach Mike Babcock nor DeKeyser would say anything that might get the Bruins riled up.
Detroit knows if it allows Boston to get is anger up, it won't bode well for the Red Wings.
"I don't know if anyone wants to piss us off," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said prior to Sunday's game. "It shouldn't matter. We've got to play our game no matter what they've got on the other side. That means bringing emotion and intensity. We've got to be physical but we've got to play the game too, so I don't think that changes. It's playoff time, we should just be playing our game.
"You don't need that. Everyone talks about it because of the way we're built that we play better when we're a little pissed off, but playoff hockey, if you can't get yourself going there's something wrong. You shouldn't need a ton of animosity to motivate yourself this time of year."
The Bruins obviously needed more bite to their game because they brought more of it en route to their Game 2 victory. Boston won many more of the puck battles and made sure they produced more teeth-shattering hits than it did in Game 1.
Bruins forward Brad Marchand was chirping and getting into the face of Red Wings veteran Pavel Datsyuk, who scored Detroit's lone goal in Game 1. Boston's David Krejci was using his stick a bit more to jab at the opponent. Lucic was his normal nasty self.
The last thing Babcock wanted to see was his team falling victim to Boston's successful style of play. In fact, at the end of the first period a scrum broke out behind the Bruins' net. Away from the scrum, Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith attempted to get Bruins captain Zdeno Chara to drop the gloves. It wasn't the type of game Babcock wanted to see.
"We played slow, so that's what it was like," he said. "I just looked at the sheet here, we had one, two, three, four roughing calls. We haven't had four roughing calls this year. You've got to do what you do, not what they do.
"You've got to decide what you want to do. Do you want to play like them or play like us?"
Another important aspect for the Bruins in Game 2 was their top line. That group generated only four shots on net during Game 1, but Lucic, Krejci and Jarome Iginla played with a sense of urgency Sunday.
With the Bruins holding a 2-1 lead late in the second period, Lucic helped Boston regain a two-goal advantage.
On the breakout, Bruins defenseman Torey Krug gained the neutral zone and showed patience with the puck before making a cross-ice pass to Lucic, who crossed the blue line and left a drop pass for Iginla. Lucic broke to the net as Iginla made the return pass. Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard got a stick on Lucic's shot, but the puck trickled in to give Boston a 3-1 lead at 18:16.
Earlier on that shift, Lucic slammed into the end wall while making a forecheck and cut his foot. He was slow to get to his feet, but eventually made it back in time to receive Krug's pass that led to the goal.
"I was 50/50 there a little bit," Lucic said. "I cut my foot up pretty good there with my own skate blade, but luckily I didn't get off. Kruger made a great play to me and Iggy made a great fake-shot pass and found me driving the net, so good thing I stayed on the ice and it ended up being a big goal to regain that two-goal lead."
Between periods, Lucic needed stitches to close the gash in his foot but it did not affect his game in the third period.
"A couple of stitches, but a long way from the heart, right?" Lucic said. "Add a little tape and aspirin to it and keep going."
Boston kept its momentum going in the third period and finished with a decisive win. The series shifts to Detroit for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. The Bruins didn't require a reminder of how they need to play in order to make another deep playoff run, but Sunday's win was important nonetheless.
"It's going to be important for us to have that kind of intensity and that kind of determination to beat this team," Julien said. "It's not an eighth-seed team. It's a really good hockey club. They're well coached and they play well. They're quick and certainly capable of doing damage if you're not ready."
The nastier the Bruins play, the more success they'll have.