BOSTON — The regular season wasn’t much of a struggle for the Boston Bruins, and neither was their first-round playoff series against the Detroit Red Wings.
Tuukka Rask made 31 saves Saturday, and the defending Eastern Conference champions eliminated the Red Wings with a 4-2 victory in Game 5.
After finishing the regular season with the best record in the NHL, the Bruins advanced to the conference semifinals against the Montreal Canadiens.
“That series was much tougher than maybe the results showed,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who gave Boston the lead for good with 4 seconds left in the second period. “I think that we handled it well, we came into this series ready and we got the job done.”
Loui Eriksson opened the scoring for Boston, and Chara’s goal on a 4-on-3 advantage snapped a 1-1 tie. Milan Lucic also scored, and Jarome Iginla added an empty-netter.
Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg scored and Jonas Gustavsson stopped 29 shots for Detroit. The Red Wings scored only six goals in the five-game series.
“We’re not there yet,” said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, whose team failed to win a playoff series in two of the past three seasons. “The last two years, we battled to get into the playoffs. To me, that’s a measure of where we are. Instead of battling for the Cup, we’re battling to make the playoffs.”
It was 1-1 when the Bruins gained a 4-on-3 power play thanks to a holding penalty on Johan Franzen just 22 seconds before Brendan Smith was called for cross-checking. On a faceoff in the Detroit zone, Patrice Bergeron lured two of the three Red Wings defenders toward the corner and then passed it across the ice to Chara, who one-timed it past Gustavsson.
Not usually demonstrative, Chara felt this one was worth celebrating.
“It was a big game and a big goal,” he said. “So I’m not afraid to show it.”
Lucic’s goal with 4:27 gone in the third made it a two-goal game. Detroit made it 3-2 with 3:52 left after Rask made two acrobatic saves but left the puck to the side of the net for Zetterberg, the Red Wings captain who missed two months with back surgery and did not return until Game 4.
Less than a minute later, though the Wings were called for too many men on the ice, leaving them a man down while trying to finish the comeback. With 2 minutes left in the game, the Boston fans began chanting “We want the cup!”
Next up: Montreal, which swept Tampa Bay.
“Guys were never ever really talking about Montreal,” Iginla said. “We know they’ve won their series and they’re going to be next, but the only talk today was about thinking about Detroit and getting this series over.”
The Bruins won it all in 2011 and returned to the Stanley Cup finals last year before they were eliminated when the Chicago Blackhawks scored two goals in 17 seconds in the final 76 seconds of Game 6. Boston seems on its way for another long playoff run this year, finishing the regular season with the best record in the NHL.
“We were playing a very good team, a team with a lot of experience, the President Trophy winners,” Detroit forward Daniel Alfredsson said. “This is a team that was just playing better than us and we feel a little short.”
The Bruins scored a power-play goal 3:27 into the first period when Dougie Hamilton’s pass bounced off a defender’s skate to Eriksson in the slot. Rask earned an assist on the play — his second career playoff point.
It stayed that way until Datsyuk came in and scooped up a rebound 12 seconds into a second-period power play against Lucic for high-sticking.