|For just the second time this season, Pavel Datsyuk had a perfect shooting percentage, scoring twice on two shots in the Wings' Game 1 win. He did the same thing against Philadelphia in November. (Photo by Getty Images) |
TAMPA, Fla. – Pavel Datsyuk hasn’t been at 100 percent, at least health-wise, in more than a month.
But in Game 1 of the Red Wings’ first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the dazzling centerman, who has been battling an undisclosed lower-body injury, was a perfect marksman at Amalie Arena.
Datsyuk produced his first multi-goal game in nearly five years, and rookie goalie Petr Mrazek made 44 saves in his Stanley Cup playoff debut to lift the Red Wings to a 3-2 victory over the Lightning Thursday night.
Badly out-played in large stretches of the game, the Red Wings managed just 14 shots, including two by Datsyuk. But both of his shots found the back of the net behind 6-foot-7 goalie Ben Bishop, giving Detroit a 2-1 lead very early in the second period.
“Comes out and plays well again,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said of his Russian linemate. “Finished the season really strong, two goals today, I don’t think a lot of people are surprised.”
The Lightning dominated from the opening faceoff, but the Wings managed to sneak a shot – their first of the game at 9:03 of the first period – passed Bishop on the stick side when Datsyuk tipped a shot from the blue line.
Datsyuk set up the play with a steal in the neutral zone. From there the Wings wheeled the puck around the offensive zone when Darren Helm spotted Kyle Quincey at the far point. The Wings’ defenseman had plenty of time to decide if he’d pass or shoot.
“I was thinking of going D-to-D,” Quincey said, “but I had to make sure I got it through there and I just waited for a guy to get in front and Pav did a great job tipping it.”
With Datsyuk set up in front of the Lightning crease, Quincey who first faked a shot, whipped the puck toward the net where Datsyuk – with his stick blade on the ice – tipped it passed Bishop, who like Mrazek, was also making his postseason debut.
“He makes goals like that look easy,” Quincey said. “That’s a pretty high-skill play.”
Tampa Bay continued to control the tempo and eventually tied the game on a short-handed goal before the end of the first period. However, the Wings got a break when defenseman Anton Stralman received a minor penalty for goaltender interference for running over Mrazek in the final minute of the period.
Datsyuk didn’t wait long to score his second goal, just eight seconds into the middle frame. The Wings’ magician won the opening face-off, pushing the puck toward the right half wall where Helm scooped it up and made a return pass to Datsyuk in the slot. The Wings’ center deked defenseman Braydon Coburn, moving the puck from his backhand to his forehand before beating Bishop on the stick side again.
“I didn’t even give him a good pass and he’s still able to bring it down, calm it down, and put it up in a hurry,” Helm said. “Good skilled play by him. Glad we have him.”
That was Datsyuk’s sixth career multi-goal playoff game of his career. The last one occurred in Game 7 of the 2010 Western Conference quarterfinals at Phoenix. He has gone 514 games – regular season and playoffs – since registering his first and only career hat trick, which came in Game 3 of the 2008 Western Conference finals against Dallas.
Despite being badly out-shot, 27-10 through 40 minutes, the Red Wings took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission. The Lightning, the league’s highest scoring team during the regular season, out-shot Detroit 46-14 in the game.
“We didn’t have enough forwards going,” coach Mike Babcock said. “To be honest with you, our D had too much work. So we’re going to have to get all hands on deck here tomorrow so we can play better and how we’re capable of playing. In saying that, we got lucky. It’s a race to four and you start by getting one.”
The Wings erased the short-handed goal scored by Brian Boyle in the first when Luke Glendening tallied his own short-handed goal on pretty play, beating Valtteri Filppula and Bishop with a sweeping backhand shot between the goalie’s pads, giving the Wings a 3-1 cushion at 5:50 of the third period.
“It’s a big, big play for us,” Babcock said. “They get a shortie and we get a shortie. Puts us in a good situation coming down the stretch and gives us the bubble we needed.”
The Red Wings consider themselves fortunate to escape Game 1 with a win. It’s the fifth straight playoff series where they haven’t had home-ice advantage, but managed to steal one of the first two games on the road dating back to the 2012 playoffs.
The Wings and Lightning resume their best-of-seven game series with Game 2 at Amalie Arena on Saturday afternoon.
“We’re not very happy with how we played but it’s a huge, greasy win,” said Quincey, who finished with a plus-2 rating. “They’re gonna play better and we definitely have to play better. Petr played unbelievable. They didn’t score on their power plays but we can’t rely on that. They’re too good of a team.”