DETROIT -- The way Henrik Zetterberg described his first game back from back surgery, he could have been speaking about the play of his entire team.
He felt good in the first period, even halfway through the second. Then, as the game went on, the shifts got shorter. Things got harder.
For him, it was the fatigue of sitting out months and then joining an intense Stanley Cup postseason in progress that kicked in. For the rest of the Red Wings, it was the Bruins who kicked in.
Boston's never-ending commitment to defense and dogged systematic approach erased a surging start for the Red Wings, along with an early two-goal lead.
By the time a deflected puck got past emergency starting goalie Jonas Gustavsson in overtime, a goal credited to Jarome Iginla, it almost seemed a foregone conclusion. Boston was the better team in the third. Boston was the better team in overtime. A Bruins win was where this game was headed and that's what they got. The final 3-2, the series lead now 3-1 and Detroit's season slowly conceding itself to Boston's relentless pursuit.
There wasn't any panic in Boston's game when Detroit came out flying; they instead just doubled down on what has got them this far.
"Give them credit, they're a really, really good team," said Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall. "I thought in the first two periods we did a lot of good things, kept going after it, kept throwing pucks in there, got some goals. In the third, for whatever reason we came off our game a bit, started chasing a bit. Give them credit, they're a good team."
For the Red Wings, there were so many storylines that set this one up to potentially be one to remember. Zetterberg was back in the lineup for the first time since aggravating his back at the Winter Olympics.
His presence in the lineup energized a Joe Louis Arena crowd and his team clearly fed off the return of their captain. They came out flying in the first, with 15 shots to Boston's five. Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk made passes that indicated their years of developing chemistry together had quickly returned.
In all, Zetterberg played 19:34 in this game, with each second a bit of a diminishing return for someone still working back into game shape.
To expect that initial jump to last was expecting too much.
"We knew that would probably be the case," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought that line had a good jump early. I thought our power play was really dangerous. As the game went on, I didn't think they were dangerous anymore. To me, I didn't know if we had a lot of good players, especially our young players."
The biggest stunner wasn't Zetterberg returning from injury early, but Jimmy Howard not playing at all. Howard was out with the flu, a decision that was so last-second Babcock turned in an incorrect starting lineup. Gustavsson got the nod during warmups and, all things considered, did well in making 37 saves in his postseason debut.
"Monster was awesome for us," Kronwall said. "He came up huge for us at times. Gave us a chance."