Bruins assert themselves

DETROIT -- The Montreal Canadiens are waiting.

After completing a four-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday night, the Canadiens will watch and wait to see if they next face the Boston Bruins or Detroit Red Wings. The Bruins gained a 2-1 series lead with a 3-0 win over the Red Wings in Game 3 of the first-round Stanley Cup playoffs Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena.

Boston capitalized on plenty of bad mistakes by the Red Wings, while Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask posted his fourth career playoff shutout and finished with 23 saves. The Bruins received goals from Dougie Hamilton, Jordan Caron and Patrice Bergeron (empty-netter).

The Bruins pushed from the opening puck drop, similar to their 4-1 win in Game 2, and were successful once again.

"We were skating well tonight," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It's OK to put pucks into the right places, but if you're not skating and not getting there, it doesn't matter. We were closing the gaps and we were able to be physical. We can talk about being a physical team, but you can't be physical if you can't skate and you can't get there. I liked our effort tonight."

This series is far from over, but the Bruins have dominated the last two games and have all the momentum. Under Julien, the Bruins are at their best when they're playing well defensively, and when they're able to accomplish that, a potent offensive strike usually follows.

That was the case in Game 3.

If Boston can continue that effort, it will face the Canadiens in what could be another epic postseason battle between the organizations. But before the Bruins can even think about a possible next opponent, they need two more wins against the Red Wings.

Besides a strong defensive game and Rask's shutout, the Bruins' organizational depth again was on display. Hamilton and Caron each scored his first Stanley Cup playoff goal, which had become a theme for Boston, with four of the Bruins' seven goals in the series being scored by first-timers, including Justin Florek and Reilly Smith.

When the Bruins have gotten contributions throughout their lineup, it usually equals a long playoff run.

"It's awesome," Rask said. "That's what you need in the playoffs. You need that depth and we've been lucky enough to get that in past years too. Jordan hasn't had the easiest year being in and out of the lineup, and when you need him he always steps up. I'm happy for him to get that goal and I thought Dougie had a great game today too."

Hamilton could have scored three goals in the first period. His first shot on net hit the post, then he tallied a power-play goal at the nine-minute mark of the opening period. The Red Wings gave Hamilton too much time and space, and he made them pay when his shot from the top of the right faceoff circle beat Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard to the short side.

"I knew I was able to skate, it was just a matter of what to do at the blue line, whether to make a pass or shot. I saw shot availability and took it," Hamilton said.

A few minutes later, Hamilton had another opportunity but he was knocked off the puck in front of the net.

Caron, who only played 35 regular-season games and often was a healthy scratch, came up big in Game 3. Again, the Red Wings had a miscue and Boston caught them in a bad change. Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller saw teammate Shawn Thornton wide open near the Detroit blue line and hit him with a pass. Thornton broke in on a partial breakaway and Howard made the initial save, but the rebound came out to the slot. Caron was crashing the net and pumped it in.

"That's part of the playoffs -- everyone's got to chip in defensively and it's playoff hockey," Caron said. "Everyone is playing really hard and putting their body on the line every shift. It's nice when your fourth line can get some offensive rewards like that."

Rask wasn't challenged too many times on Tuesday, but he came up with some timely saves. He's stopped 96 of 98 shots in this series.

"It's really good team defense," Rask said. "I don't think we've given them many scoring chances. I don't think they had a lot of quality opportunities."

After claiming a 2-0 lead in the first period, the Bruins let up a little bit in the second but improved in the third. Fortunately for Boston, its defensive game did not relent and the Bruins finished with the victory.

"It obviously starts with Tuukka and it's pretty easy to play in front of him when we know he's pretty much going to stop every puck," Hamilton said. "It kind of deflates them as well, so they look for better chances instead of just getting pucks on net. Our forwards are helping the D out, so it's a whole team defensive effort."

If the Bruins can continue to play this way, they should earn a series win. If that happens, their reward will be the Montreal Canadiens. As this first-round series continues, Boston is building and gaining momentum and exploiting the Red Wings' mistakes.

"Better and better," Rask said of the team's overall game. "The first game we were good defensively, but the offense wasn't there. In the second game we got the offense going, and today was a good start, we got the lead, so I think we're heading in the right direction. The defense has been tremendous."

After the game, Detroit coach Mike Babcock did not address his team and said he would wait until Wednesday's practice to do so.

"We've been a way better team," Babcock said. "That's unacceptable."