On Thursday night in Detroit, Jonas Gustavsson was announced as the starting goalie for Game 4 of the first-round series between the Detroit Red Wings and the Boston Bruins. This marked the first time in his career that Jonas Gustavsson would play a game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Jimmy Howard has been Detroit’s starting goalie for the past 5 years or so, but he was unable to play due to the flu.
Detroit came out strong in the 1st period, as Gustavsson had to face only 5 shots compared to the 15 pucks the Red Wings threw at Tuuka Rask. The first good scoring chance the Bruins had was midway through the 1st, when Reilly Smith found himself on a partial breakaway and hit the post after a backhanded attempt to find the twine. A few minutes later, with 5:03 left in the period, Boston found their best scoring chance of the 1st when defenseman Kevin Miller made a great pass to Brad Marchand who was all alone to the left of Gustavsson, but he shanked the shot to the left of a yawning net. Detroit spent the majority of the 1st period in Boston’s end of the ice, and they were able to score the first goal of the game as Niklas Kronwall capitalized on the power play with a slapshot from the point. As good as they were on the offense, Detroit’s defensive play was what made them better than the Bruins for the first two periods. They blocked 5 shots in the first period, and they didn’t let Boston get any sustained offensive pressure, which kept them from developing too many strong scoring chances. Gustavsson did have to come up big a few times though, and the save that stands out the most is when he made a pad save against Torrey Krug’s point shot that went through a screen from the 6’9 Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
Jonas Gustavsson seemed antsy to play the puck all game long, which was how Smith got the backhand scoring chance in the 1st period. Gustavsson’s rebound control was also poor throughout the game, which helped create many of the Bruins scoring chances. 3:25 into the 2nd period, Boston’s fourth line of Jordan Caron, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton were able to create a scoring chance when Caron set up Gregory Campbell who was all alone in the slot, forcing Gustavsson to make a great glove save. Just over a minute later, an octopus thrown onto the ice marked Detroit’s second goal when Pavel Datsyuk scored his 2nd goal of the series after Kronwall made a terrific pass from behind the net to Datsyuk who just tipped the puck into a yawning net 4:27 into the second period. A few minutes later, Boston’s first line got another great scoring chance when Patrice Bergeron‘s shot bounced off of Gustavsson’s chest and landed right in front of Reilly Smith, who was unable to beat Gustavsson on the rebound. The Bruins couldn’t convert on any of their chances until the 10:14 mark, when Torrey Krug took a slap shot right off of the faceoff that deflected off of Detroit’s Drew Miller, and into the net, cutting the Wings’ lead in half. Things calmed down for both teams until the last two minutes of the period, when Boston kept the puck in the zone long enough to produce a point shot from defenseman Matt Bartkowski, which Gustavsson managed to save despite being screened with a scrum in front of his crease.
The Red Wings came out very weak to start the 3rd period, and Boston took advantage of it when Carl Soderberg made a great pass to Milan Lucic at the front of the net, who lifted the puck up and over Jonas Gustavsson’s left pad, tying the game 1:15 into the period. Seconds later after the puck drop at center ice, Lucic made a great pass to Loui Eriksson who had yawning net to shoot at, but he shanked the one-timer and Detroit recovered the puck. Boston was the better team than Detroit in the 3rd, after playing two sub-par periods. Lucic was all over the ice in the third period, as he let one fly on Gustavsson, who made a big stick save at the 12:39 mark of the period. In the last minute of regulation, the Bruins had 4 or 5 scoring chances, but they didn’t manage to bury one due to missing the net on every shot they took. After 3 periods, the game was tied at 2, Detroit with 34 shots on Rask, and Boston with 28 shots on the Swedish netminder Gustavsson.
Detroit came out of the intermission with a purpose, and managed to keep the Bruins out of their zone until 17:25, when Gustavsson froze the puck after a slapshot from Johnny Boychuck. Gregory Campbell won the ensuing faceoff pack to the points, where Boychuck blasted the puck towards the scrum in front of Gustavsson. Caron came away with the puck and set up Thornton for a great scoring chance, but he couldn’t handle the bounding puck. After that chance, Boston seemed to get their legs, and began playing better than Detroit again. A few minutes later, the Red Wings turned the puck over in their own end, forcing Jonas Gustavsson to make a great save on fellow countryman Carl Soderberg. Boychuck got another point shot on the faceoff, forcing Gustavsson out of position with Brad Marchand all alone in front of the net. Bergeron threw the puck towards Marchand, but Kronwall was able to tie him up and prevent him from getting the easy goal while Gustavsson was sprawled out. The Lucic line was clearly the best line in OT with four or five scoring chances, one of which came from Lucic when his one-timer hit the crossbar. Minutes later, Jarome Iginla threw a wicked wrist shot at Gustavsson, who got a piece of it with his glove, stopping a sure goal. With 7:28 to go into the overtime period, Dougie Hamilton threw a wrist shot towards the net, which deflected first off of Luke Glendening, then off of Iginla, and finally off of the right leg of Danny DeKeyser before finding the net about a foot away from Gustavsson’s right pad, ending the game.
All in all, Jonas Gustavsson was solid in his first career playoff game, shutting out the East’s No.1 seed for the first halve of the game, and then conceding 3 goals after 40 shots and 73 minutes. Yes, he was out of position too often, and yes he hardly controlled any of his rebounds, but he managed to give his team a chance to score throughout the entire game. Boston now leads the series 3-1. Game 5 will be in Boston at 3PM EST on NBC, RDS, and TSN.