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Gustavsson earns shutout in '14-15 debut

by Craig Peterson / Detroit Red Wings

Red Wings backup Jonas Gustavsson makes one of his 12 saves in a scoreless first period against the Maple Leafs at Joe Louis Arena Saturday night. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT — The second game of a home-and-home series between the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs was all about the goalies on Saturday at Joe Louis Arena.

Backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson made 30 saves, earning the first shutout in two years, helping lift the Red Wings to a 1-0 overtime victory.

“Anytime you play a team back-to-back, it’s way harder the second night. Everybody wants to respond, I thought (the Leafs) played way harder than they did last night,” coach Mike Babcock said. “They got excellent goaltending. Our goalie was fantastic too, there was lots of chances both ways, it was entertaining and we’re just happy to get away with the points.”

Playing against his former team, Gustavsson stood tall for 64:51 of scoreless game time to earn his first shutout since March 10, 2012, when he played for the opposing Maple Leafs.

“I felt pretty good, I had some bad rebounds but I think the guys helped me out a lot too,” Gustavsson said. “All guys battled hard all night so it was a great team effort tonight.”

In the waning minutes of the first period, Gustavsson came up with possibly his biggest save of the night. Strange to say, being that it happened so early in the contest but in a 0-0 game every save mattered. Mike Santorelli came in on a breakaway with 45 seconds remaining in the period and moved to his forehand, left of Gustavsson. Sliding to his left, Gustavsson reached his left leg out to the goal post and eliminated the scoring opportunity with a pad save, keeping the first period scoreless.

“I think he was huge for us the whole game but he made some key saves in the beginning and kept us in the game,” center Henrik Zetterberg said. “When they had really good chances, he was there to save us.

At times, it was quiet for Gustavsson as he only faced one shot through the first nine minutes of play in the second period. That one shot, however, came from Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf, letting a wrist shot go from the blue line. The shot found its way through two separate screens before getting to Gustavsson, who reacted late but was able to make a left shoulder save.

Gustavsson and Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier traded impressive saves through regulation, combining for 59 saves. Both teams generated plenty of opportunities and close calls but every time the Leafs threatened, Gustavsson was there to answer. With both goalies not giving up ground it became a case of who was going to crack first.

“(Bernier) came up big and you just know you gotta match that. It looked like it was going to be a low scoring game so you can’t really do any mistakes,” Gustavsson said. “It’s always fun to play those games where it’s a tight game and maybe the next goal is going to win the game.”

The Wings’ offense was stymied by Bernier but Gustavsson was just as impressive on the other end of the ice. He stopped all 12 shots he faced in the first period and played a key role in killing off 7:25 in penalties during the game. The Leafs’ power play was held to just four shots, but Gustavsson stepped up in the clutch being the team’s biggest penalty killer.

The two goalies maintained shutouts until the final seconds of overtime when Henrik Zetterberg broke the scoreless deadlock with nine seconds remaining, earning Gustavsson the win and the shutout.

After posting career highs in goals-against average (2.63) and save percentage (.907) last season, a strong effort by Gustavsson in 2014-15 could prove to be crucial in the event that Jimmy Howard’s groin injury lingers or something occurs in the future.

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