Early in last night's third period, with the score tied at 1-1, Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit's No. 1 center, sprinted into the Boston zone and winged a fast-moving shot on Tim Thomas that the goalie steered aside.
Upon reflection, the Boston netminder thought he could have done a better job of putting the puck out of danger.
"It was a little bit behind a screen," Thomas said of Zetterberg's shot. "But having said that, I should have found some way to put the rebound in a better spot."
Had Thomas directed the rebound 6 inches deeper into the corner, the Detroit rush might have been limited to a single shot. But top-line winger Pavel Datsyuk eluded the backcheck of David Krejci, pounced on the rebound, and swept the puck past Thomas at 1:53 for the deciding strike in Detroit's 3-1 victory before 17,565 at TD Banknorth Garden.
It was the seventh straight win for the Red Wings, the top team in the NHL.
"The whole team has to almost play a perfect game to beat that team," said Thomas, who made 29 saves.
Perfect might have been the appropriate adjective for Boston's first period, one of their crispest opening frames of the season. The Bruins scored the only goal of the period, a play that started when their youngest player made a play beyond his years.
Milan Lucic kicked off the strike with a hard piece of backchecking that led to a takeaway in the neutral zone. Lucic gained control of the puck along the left-side wall, turned up ice, and slid a cross-ice pass to Chuck Kobasew, who sprinted away from a two-on-one rush with Glen Metropolit against defenseman Andreas Lilja.
Kobasew fed Metropolit, who dished the puck right back. Kobasew took the pass and winged a shot over goalie Chris Osgood at 7:52 for the only goal of the period.
"Looch did a great job of creating the turnover," said Kobasew, who has a team-best 19 goals and a four-game scoring streak.
But the Bruins couldn't carry their first-period play into the final 40 minutes of the game. Osgood (23 saves) kept the Bruins off the scoreboard for the rest of the night, getting help from his defenders when the Bruins went on a two-man advantage for 1:47 in the second period. For the second straight game, the Bruins failed to score during an extended five-on-three power play - they had a two-minute two-man advantage against Ottawa Thursday - and gave the Wings an opportunity to climb back into the match.
Zetterberg started the Detroit rally by beating Metropolit for the puck off a draw and canning a top-shelf laser over Thomas at 15:04 of the second for his 31st goal.
"Fortuitous," Thomas said of Zetterberg's shot. "It was laying there between legs and nobody knew where it was at. There were so many bodies that I couldn't see the shot coming. I saw it when he hit the puck. When somebody shoots, you have that second to get ready for it. I didn't have that because I couldn't see anybody's stick."
Datsyuk made it a 2-1 score with his 18th goal, then defenseman Brian Rafalski put the game out of reach with a power-play slapper that sailed through traffic and beat Thomas at 14:02 of the third period. Meanwhile, the Wings limited the Bruins to eight third-period shots.
"It comes back to the veteran D they have," said Kobasew. "They're smart and they don't turn it over too often. When we do get our chances, we have to bury them."