TAMPA -- Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he took any emotion out of choosing Petr Mrazek to start in goal over veteran Jimmy Howard in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Instead, Babcock simply went with the goalie he felt gave Detroit the best chance to win.
Mrazek, in his first Stanley Cup Playoff game, was worthy of his coach's confidence, making 44 saves to help the Red Wings to a 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Thursday.
"Some nights you have to pick up the goalie when he doesn't play good, but [Thursday] the goalie picked us up," Babcock said. "He was unreal. We found a way to win. It wasn’t exactly the way I drew it out but it was a win. We have to get quicker and spend more time in the zone, but we’re happy to be up after one game."
Mrazek, who was 16-9-2 with a 2.38 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in 29 regular-season games, was the choice over Howard, who, when healthy, has been the starter in the playoffs each of the past five seasons.
"They were coming at the net hard and they took shots from everywhere in the first period," Mrazek said. "I was able to get into the game with all those chances they had. In the second period, I had 17 saves, so I was always in the game. It was a lot of fun out there."
Pavel Datsyuk scored two goals for Detroit, which took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.
Game 2 is at Amalie Arena on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA).
Datsyuk gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead on their first shot at 9:03 of the first period. He redirected a slap shot from defenseman Kyle Quincey that caught Lightning goalie Ben Bishop leaning the wrong way.
Brian Boyle tied the game at 14:31 of the first period on a shorthanded goal after he tipped a pass by Marek Zidlicky, stole the puck, and scored on the breakaway.
"I thought we generated a lot of good chances around the net and they just didn't go in," Boyle said. "We'll take the positives out of this game and get ready for Saturday. There's some things we will look at and clean up, but I thought their goalie played real well. We were getting shots, getting deflections, but there was a small margin of error. Doesn't matter how you get it done in the playoffs as long as you get the win, so it’s disappointing."
Datsyuk scored his second goal eight seconds into the second period on a power play. He pushed the puck forward off the faceoff and sent a shot between Bishop's pads from the slot to give the Red Wings a 2-1 lead.
"It's a good feeling to win this game," Datsyuk said. "We tried to be active and take advantage of our scoring chances. [Mrazek] played real well."
With the Lightning on a power play, forward Luke Glendening gave the Red Wings a 3-1 lead 5:50 into the third period. He challenged the possession at the point and stole the puck, spinning around Lightning center Valtteri Filppula on the rush and slid the puck between Bishop's pads with a backhand shot.
"Petr really saved us [Thursday]," Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “[The penalty kill] was good. Other than that, we've got a lot of stuff we need to be better at. We got the first one, now we fix a couple of things and be ready to go for the next one."
Tampa Bay defenseman Nikita Nesterov took the puck from the point to center ice and sent a hard wrist shot past Mrazek at 8:26 to make it 3-2.
"I couldn't draw the game up any better than the way we played it," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
"It's tough. You think about games, ultimately, it's not really how many you score, it's how many you keep out. When you're giving up two or less, you've got a pretty good chance of winning the game. You give up the third one, now it’s sometimes you win, and sometimes you don't. We were just one short at keeping them out."
The Lightning were 0-for-7 on the power play.
"We got pucks on the net," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "We put up close to 50 shots in a playoff game. It's just one of those times where it wasn't going in for us."
Bishop made 11 saves on 14 shots.
"I thought we played well and just didn't get the win," Bishop said. "Sometimes it goes like that. [Mrazek] got a lot of work and made a lot of great saves. We've lost some games where we had a big shot advantage. As a goalie sometimes it's better to face a lot of shots."