BOSTON (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - The Detroit Red Wings, ultimately, were not tough enough.
The playoff ride that began with such lofty expectations eight days ago ended Saturday afternoon at TD Garden, as the Presidents' Trophy Boston Bruins claimed the series after five games with a 4-2 victory. It's the second time in three years the Wings have exited the playoffs in the first round.
Pavel Datsyuk scored his third goal of the series when he converted on a power play. The Bruins feasted with the man advantage - something the Wings failed to do most of the series - with Loui Eriksson and Zdeno Chara both converting to put Boston into the third period with a one-goal lead.
That grew to two by the five-minute mark, when Milan Lucic - who was a world-class pest and producer against Detroit - beat Jonas Gustavsson's on the doorstep, connectingon a shot by former Spartan Torey Krug. Jarome Iginla found an empty net with 15.2 seconds to go.
Henrik Zetterberg scored with 3:52 to go in regulation from seemingly no angle, showing why the Wings missed their captain so much through the first three games of the series.
Where the Bruins had stars all of their guys going, the Wings had few of their players delivering. Datsyuk did it, on one leg. Zetterberg was noticeable both of the two games he played at the end, returning to the lineup nine weeks after back surgery. Daniel Alfredsson was good, as was Niklas Kronwall.
Johan Franzen was invisible, and the so-called "kids" that played such a huge role in the Wings making the playoffs for a 23rd straight time - Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan - all left pointless.
As the series grew bleaker for the Wings, they talked about sticking to their structure, about believing in each other and the system. It turned out to be futile, as the Wings were undone by the most well-rounded team in the playoffs.
The Bruins made it clear straight away they weren't going to go back to Detroit for any more games, taking advantage of an early power play to force the Wings to play catch-up hockey for the third time in the series. Dougie Hamilton managed to skate around Pavel Datsyuk and take the puck into right corner before whipping around and firing a shot to the slot. Darren Helm wasn't able to clear it and instead Loui Eriksson turned it into a 1-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.
It was the fifth time on 11 power plays in the series the Bruins scored. The Wings, meanwhile, got their 14th man advantage of the series a minute after the Bruins had converted, and managed just one shot on net. They got a second power play late in the period, but other than Gustav Nyquist skating up the middle and sending a weak shot at Tuukka Rask, the Bruins were the more dangerous team during the stretch, with Brad Marchand bulling through defenders to keep Gustavsson on his toes.
Datsyuk - whose magic skills with the puck was the reason the Wings won Game 1 - scored on a power play late in the second period. Henrik Zetterberg sent the puck on net, where Johan Franzen was waiting to serve as a screen. Rask made the stop, sending the puck back out - and Datsyuk swooped in and scooped the puck into Boston's net.
It was a huge goal for the Wings, injecting life, and hope. Only then came a curious stretch to end the second period that saw, in close procession, Loui Eriksson skate to the penalty box for goaltender interference, Johan Franzen skate nearly the same route for holding Johnny Boychuk, and then Brendan Smith for cross-checking Jarome Iginla. The result was a 4-on-3 Boston power play that Chara used to rip a shot from the right circle that sank past Gustavsson with 3.8 seconds left, ending the period - and ultimately the game - in celebration.
Contact Helene St. James: email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.