With one deflection by Jarome Iginla and a fortunate bounce off the skate of Danny DeKeyser, the Detroit Red Wings' hopes of winning a playoff series against the Boston Bruins went up in smoke.
The stage was set for a heroic tale of triumph in the face of adversity, as the Red Wings were in position to beat the league's best regular-season team with Jimmy Howard as a last-minute scratch because of the flu and Daniel Alfredsson out again with a back injury.
However, the Bruins rallied for a 3-2 overtime win at Joe Louis Arena that all but ends this series.
The Bruins lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and it's just a matter of time before they notch the decisive fourth win.
With captain Henrik Zetterberg playing an NHL game for the first time since early February, the Red Wings opened a 2-0 lead early in the second period.
Instead of knotting the series at 2-2, they became the ninth instance of a team losing a game this postseason after grabbing a two-goal lead thanks to goals from Torey Krug, Milan Lucic and finally Iginla in overtime.
For the Red Wings to win this series, they will need to win three straight games against the Bruins, who haven't lost three straight games all season. Two of those three wins will have to come at TD Garden in Boston, where the Bruins went 31-7-3—the best home mark in the league this season.
This puppy is all over. Now, it's up to the Bruins to step on the Red Wings' throats in Game 5 on Saturday.
Why? Because with the Montreal Canadiens lurking in Round 2 and resting after a sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning, letting the Red Wings push this series to six or even seven games would be detrimental to the Bruins' long-term hopes.
It's not that the Bruins can't beat the Canadiens if the Red Wings extend this series to seven games, but history has shown going seven games in the first round is not recommended.
Since 1992, 49 teams have needed seven games to win their first-round series. Only two—the 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins and the 2011 Boston Bruins—have gone on to win the Stanley Cup.
The Bruins bucked the trend in 2011 with the help of playing two teams along the way (Tampa Bay and Vancouver) that also played seven-game first-round series, but it's clear grabbing rest early can pay dividends later.
Last season, the Bruins let a 3-1 series lead in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs slip away before rallying to win Game 7 in dramatic fashion. The Bruins went on to lose the Stanley Cup to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games after leading 2-1 in that series.
"We've learned a lot of hard lessons in the past, like Toronto, and fortunately we were able to get out of that one and move on," Lucic told reporters following the game.
"Last year, we had Chicago down 2-1 [in the Stanley Cup Final] and we probably didn't play our best Game 4 and lost that in overtime and weren't able to recover after that. You don't want to do anything to give the other team life in a series," he said.
As for the expected second-round matchup with the Canadiens, it would behoove the Bruins to end this series as quickly as possible, but perhaps it's not a necessity if they want a better chance of winning in the second round.
Since 2006, eight teams have won their first-round series in four games—six of those teams had their seasons ended in the following round. The 2008 Pittsburgh Penguins bucked the trend, ultimately losing in the Stanley Cup Final to Detroit that season.
Extended rest is either the greatest thing in the world or an instrument that builds rust on a well-oiled machine, but a potential week-long break would benefit the Bruins.
Consider Zdeno Chara, who is 37 years old and logged the 23rd-most minutes of ice time in the NHL this season: A long rest to allow him to recharge his batteries is far more agreeable to the Bruins than having him chase Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg for two or three more games when Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek are relaxing at home in Montreal.
It would also allow for Daniel Paille and Chris Kelly more time to mend from their injuries that have kept them out of the lineup for about two weeks.
Depth is everything in the playoffs, and the Bruins need to be at full strength for the Canadiens.
It's inevitable that the Bruins will eliminate the Red Wings—it's when they do it that could be the difference between winning the Stanley Cup and falling short.
Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.
All statistics via NHL.com.
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