TAMPA, Fla. – Mike Babcock made a commitment before the Red Wings’ Eastern Conference playoff series started and he isn't about to break it now.
After the Tampa Bay Lightning scored three times in the second period – opening a four-goal lead in Game 2 – the Red Wings’ coach replaced rookie Petr Mrazek with veteran Jimmy Howard.
The move wasn’t based on what the young goaltender did wrong; it was more of a humanitarian gesture on the coach’s part.
“We gave up some slam dunks to them,” Babcock said. “You got to give your goalie a chance. You can’t make those defensive mistakes and then think your goalie is going to make those saves. If you give him a chance to battle he’ll battle.
“I thought today, we didn’t make lots of them (mistakes), but when we did we made them enough and they were able to bury them.”
By the time Mrazek’s afternoon ended, the Wings were down 4-0 after two periods to the Lightning, who added one more goal to defeat Detroit 5-1 in their best-of-7 game series.
The five goals are the most allowed by the Wings in 43 playoff games. However, the Wings played better Saturday than they did in the series opener.
“We did a lot of good things offensively,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We spent a lot more time in their end. But they got the goals today. Even on the power play I thought we had some good looks but we couldn’t really get any momentum and get any goals. Obviously we came down here, played two games, got one and now we head home.”
Undeterred by Saturday’s outcome, Babcock said he intends to stick with his young goaltender when the series heads to Detroit for Game 3 on Tuesday.
“Pete’s starting next game,” Babcock said. “It was just a change and he gets to get regrouped and he’ll be starting for us next game.”
The 23-year-old Mrazek is just the third goalie not to finish a playoff game during Babcock’s tenure in Detroit. Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood did not finish playoff games in 2008 and ’09 respectively. However, Osgood’s exit in Game 4 of the conference finals was because he fell ill.
Mrazek gave up four goals on 18 shots, a far different story from Game 1 when he made 44 saves in his postseason debut while leading the Red Wings to a 3-2 victory.
Meanwhile, Ben Bishop was far better in net for the Lightning than he was in Game 1 when he struggled to stop 11 of the 14 shots he faced.
“Obviously our goalie stole Game 1 and I thought that Bishop was way better here tonight, made some huge saves in the second period, in particular on the power play when we had it going pretty good,” Babcock said. “Now we have a couple of days before we play again.”
Bishop rebounded from his awful playoff debut, but he was also the beneficiary of a four-goal lead after 40 minutes. Center Tyler Jonson scored twice, and former Red Wings center Valtteri Filppula scored a goal and assisted on another for the Lightning. Defenseman Andrej Sustr and center Alex Killorn also scored.
The Red Wings certainly had their chances against the 6-foot-7 Bishop, but only Tomas Tatar capitalized when a puck deflected off of him and behind the Lightning goalie early in the third period.
“He was really good,” Tatar said of Bishop. “We obviously have to screen a little better and attack the net a little bit better but he had a good game today. We just have to throw it behind and focus on the next one.”
Howard made 11 saves on 12 shots, giving up a power-play goal to Filppula at 15:16 of the third.
Howard was playing in his first postseason game since Game 3 against Boston last year when he came down with the flu and missed the final two games of the series.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, when a best-of-7 series is tied 1-1, the winner of Game 3 holds an all-time series record of 189-92 (67.3 percent). The Red Wings all-time series record is 13-5 (72.2 percent) after building a 2-1 series lead.
“This is the way I looked at it,” Babcock said. “I thought our goalie was real good in Game 1. I thought their goalie was real good in Game 2. Here we are going home. I know I’ll be in my hot tub by 10 tonight, sun’s going to get up tomorrow. We got a five-game series against Tampa and it looks like it’s going to be fun.”