Kevan Miller returned to the lineup Sunday and imposed his will early and often. (AP)
It took exactly 72 seconds for Kevan Miller to make his presence felt in Sunday’s series-evening win over the Red Wings at TD Garden.
Just 29 seconds into his first defensive shift, Miller crushed Detroit left wing Drew Miller along the defensive boards to the right of Tuukka Rask on a dump in by the Wings.
The hit set the tempo and immediately got the Garden crowd into a game the Bruins desperately needed on Easter Sunday.
“Happy to be able to be out there so I was excited,” Miller said. “I think as a team we kind of wanted to do that, come out early, come out on our toes. It’s always good to try and get a hit to get going early.”
Of course, Miller was just happy to be on his skates himself after the last week when a virulent stomach bug made its way through the Bruins room, also hitting fellow D-man Matt Bartkowski.
“It was tough, started earlier in the week and kind of persisted,” Miller said. “I know it was the same for a number of guys. Me and Bart seemed to have it pretty bad. Just getting fluid back in me, trying to do my best there.
“It was tough. After practice is when things really went south. Just kind of unfortunate.”
The Bruins clearly missed Miller’s physical presence in a 1-0 Game 1 loss. But after the hit on Drew Miller, Miller and the Bruins were most definitely into the flow of the game. Miller didn’t let up there.
In his next shift four minutes later, Miller took out Daniel Alfredsson. Miller had two loud, energizing hits before the Bruins even had a shot on goal.
A minute and a half later, Wings goalie Jimmy Howard decided to play a gamble and throw a puck off the side boards. It backfired when Justin Florek collected the puck, spun and fired a shot under the pads of the scrambling goalie for a 1-0 Bruins lead.
“He stepped up for us huge this year with the absence of some key D-men that we lost throughout the year, and to see him step up like he did here, and how he’s been playing throughout the year, has been great to see,” Milan Lucic said. “He’s a physical guy, he’s a real competitor, and you saw that here tonight, like you said, especially in the first five minutes.”
“Millsy, right from the start, I thought he helped set the tone with a couple of big hits, and I think they were within the first five minutes. I mean, he looks like he’s about to get hit and he still hits the other way, so he reverses and he brings a lot of energy, but he still moves the puck well and he’s a tough guy to beat but he’s just ‘ he’s a very strong competitor and it was great to have him back on the lineup and set that tone early,” added Jarome Iginla.
But perhaps no one appreciated having Miller back than captain Zdeno Chara, who was busy keeping Reilly Smith’s brother out of his face. With Miller back, Chara doesn’t have to carry the whole burden of enforcing the physical style that the Bruins needed so badly in Game 2.
“It’s nice to have him back,” Chara said. “It probably wasn’t fun for him the last few days, but I thought he handled it really well and he played a strong game.”