Boston — Talk about unexpected heroes.
Goalie Jonas Gustavsson thought he’d take his usual position on the bench and watch Jimmy Howard face the Boston Bruins on Monday.
That was before Gustavsson learned that Howard’s left hand, injured during Saturday’s game against Philadelphia, continued to bother him during Monday’s warmups.
So about 20 minutes before Monday’s game, Gustavsson was told he’d be starting.
And Gustavsson, in his season debut, led the Red Wings to a 3-2 victory over the Bruins.
“Good for Gus,” said coach Mike Babcock, who repeatedly has said he’d like to see Gustavsson play approximately 20 games this season in an effort to keep Howard fresh.
“You have to give Gus a lot of credit,” Babcock said. “He didn’t know he was playing. He gets confidence and if he feels good about himself and we feel good about him, he gets to keep playing.”
Gustavsson, who made 28 saves, was plagued with injuries last season and then began this season with the same problems. He suffered a groin injury after two periods of his exhibition opener, missed the majority of the preseason, then began the regular season on the injured list.
“You have to be prepared to play, no matter what,” Gustavsson said. “If you start, or if you don’t, you have to be prepared. That’s the way it is.”
Teammates were pleased for Gustavsson, who has had a difficult time in Detroit with the numerous injuries.
“We knew he was going to have a start here pretty soon,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “He comes in with a lot of confidence and plays a great game. He plays really aggressive, plays the puck right away, and it’s good to see.
“He’s a good goalie and he’s fun to have around.”
Gustavsson came off the injured list last week and went through several practices.
“I felt pretty comfortable getting in there,” Gustavsson said. “Then when you get a few shots on you, you get into the game and go from there.”
Gustavsson and the Red Wings’ penalty killers stood tall late in the third period.
The Red Wings held a 3-1 lead in the third period but penalties to Niklas Kronwall (hooking) and Daniel Cleary (tripping) gave Boston at two-man advantage for 1 minute, 54 seconds beginning at 15:04.
Gustavsson survived the Bruins’ assault.
“That’s the way it is in the NHL, you have a one- or two-goal lead, but you know the game isn’t over,” Gustavsson said. “The guys did a real good job there and helped me out. It’s a tough situation but the guys battled real hard and made it easier for me. Without them, they would have scored.”
Zetterberg, Stephen Weiss and Daniel Cleary scored for the Red Wings.
The Red Wings also killed all five Boston power plays Monday afternoon, while avenging a disappointing loss to the Bruins the opening weekend of the regular season.
“They embarrassed us last time in here,” Cleary said. “We kind of came in making sure we were ready. Gustavsson played real well for us. They had a lot of good shifts and a lot of good chances to score and we were able to keep it out of the net and it was a big win for us, something to build on.”
The Bruins though they’d see a different Red Wings team in the rematch – and they were right.
“They’re a disciplined team,” said Bruins defenseman Torey Krug (Michigan State). “Everyone knows their role. They do their job well and they don’t do anything crazy. They play the game well and they’re very well coached and very disciplined.”