DETROIT -- Leading up to last night, coach Mike Sullivan had pulled out all the stops in trying to spark the Bruins. He'd held meetings and even general manager Mike O'Connell addressed the club after Sullivan ran them through a double-session, two-hour practice Monday. He'd appealed to their pride, their professionalism, and during tough workouts on both Monday and Tuesday, the first-year coach didn't mince words, letting his players know how dissatisfied he was with their inconsistency.
Last night, after a shaky first period, they responded in a big way, beating the formidable Red Wings, 3-0, at Joe Louis Arena. Goaltender Andrew Raycroft was outstanding in turning back all 36 shots he faced on the way to his second career shutout.
"He was great, he was terrific tonight," said Sullivan of Raycroft. "He really allowed us to get in the hockey game, especially those first 10 minutes. He allowed us to weather the storm. He's a pretty solid guy and for a young guy, he has a lot of composure. Tonight he was on top of his game."
It was just the fourth time this season that the Wings were defeated on home ice (17-4-1-0). It marked the first time Boston had shut out Detroit here since Feb. 6, 1990, when Andy Moog was between the pipes in a 2-0 win.
If you went by the first half of the opening period, it appeared the Bruins were going to be run out of the rink by the offensively potent and experienced Red Wings.
A little more than eight minutes in, the home team was outshooting Boston, 8-0. It wasn't until 9:45 of the period that the Bruins generated a shot on net -- a slapper from the right circle by rookie Patrice Bergeron.
"I think we came out a little shell-shocked and a little bit watching more than skating," said Mike Knuble, who had Boston's third goal. "We had a good penalty kill and got through that OK, Razor showed us he was going to be in this game and do his best to keep it close, and everybody jumped on board."
They took the lead at 13:25 of the first on Joe Thornton's first goal in 11 contests. Red Wings left wing Brendan Shanahan had the puck and tried to clear it outside the blue line but Bruins defenseman Dan McGillis lunged at Shanahan and got his stick on the puck to keep it in. Sergei Samsonov relayed a pass to the Bruins' captain and he drove through the right circle, switching from his forehand to his backhand and back again. He deked Curtis Joseph and then maneuvered the puck behind the goalie's right leg on his backhand and then went back to his forehand, slamming a shot into the net.
The second period was far more even in terms of shots (13-12 in favor of Boston), and the Bruins increased their lead to a pair of goals. At 15:32, Travis Green potted his first goal in 12 contests. Green beat Pavel Datsyuk on a faceoff in the right circle. The puck went back to Jeff Jillson, who took a shot from the right point. It took a fortuitous bounce for Boston off the end boards and came out to Green in front of the net and he fired it past Joseph.
Instead of sitting on their lead, the Bruins kept up the pressure and made it a three-goal bulge early in the third. Sean O'Donnell, with the puck at the far side of the left circle, made a cross-ice pass to Knuble, who was chugging to the net from the right circle. The relay hit its mark perfectly and Knuble's quick shot went off the glove of Joseph and into the net at 2:01.
The Bruins players were quick to give Raycroft credit for his role in the victory, and they said they're determined to erase the negativity that has surrounded this club for more than a month.
"We've been doubted a lot in Boston and everywhere we've been lately," said Knuble. "For the last seven to 10 days we've been playing a lot better. I think we finally put it all together for a night and now the trick is to do it again. It shows us and everybody who doubts us that we're a group who can [win]. You don't have to go around changing guys. We have guys here who can do the job. We don't want to be a once-in-a-while team that throws it together once in a while. The rest of the year is going to be real tight and we have to learn fast how to win it."