|Red Wings rookie Petr Mrazek made this first-period save on Coyotes forward Lucas Lessio. (Photo by Getty Images) |
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Since getting pulled in Tampa Bay last week, Petr Mrazek has been nearly unbeatable.
The rookie goalie made 22 saves Saturday, including one on a penalty shot, to help the Red Wings to a 3-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes before a partisan Red Wings crowd at Gila River Arena.
“You got to give Mrazek credit here,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “For the third goalie he’s gone 10-1. Maybe he doesn’t want to be the third goalie.”
The win propelled the Red Wings (71 points) into a first-place tie in the Atlantic Division, as well as the Eastern Conference, with the Lightning, who were defeated by Los Angeles, 4-2, Saturday afternoon.
The only blemish for Mrazek was Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s goal with 1:54 left in the third period, which snapped the rookie goaltender’s shutout streak at 132:42.
The previous goal surrendered by Mrazek was a week ago when New York Islanders’ Lubomir Visnovsky scored on the power play at 5:24 of the third period. The rookie had stopped 54 consecutive shots during his shutout streak.
“I felt great. I think we played a really good road game,” said Mrazek, who was making his 10th straight start in place of injured Jimmy Howard. “We had a good penalty kill and we scored again in the power play, so I think that was great today.”
Howard, who hasn’t played since suffering a slightly torn groin muscle Jan. 10, is expect to return for the Red Wings’ next game, Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
Mrazek has been outstanding during this current stint with the club. In 19 appearances this season, he has a 13-4-1record with a 2.42 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.
However, now that Howard and backup Jonas Gustavsson are healthy again, the question is what do the Wings do with Mrazek?
“It’s the NHL,” Babcock said, “the best guys are supposed to play, so we got to figure that out.”
Since getting pulled after two periods against the Lightning, Mrazek has strung together three straight solid starts. Again on Saturday, he was simply spectacular.
“He’s amazing. For a goalie that’s huge to be confident,” Riley Sheahan said. “Even if you do have a bad game you can come back next game and feel comfortable. He’s awesome. He’s awesome playing the puck and we feel comfortable that when the puck goes to him that he can make a play. He’s been good for us.”
For the second straight game the power play struck first. Sheahan’s ninth goal of the season – his fifth on the power-play – broke a scoreless tie at 8:11 of the second period.
“I thought our power play was good tonight,” Babcock said. “It didn’t score as good as it could have but the guys have done a good job and it’s pretty detail orientated and we got two good groups. … They’re both very dangerous and we get a full two minutes of power play like that.”
Tomas Tatar and Darren Helm sealed the Wings’ win with goals in the final three minutes. For the second straight game Helm scored into an empty net.
Trailing 1-0, the Coyotes had a golden opportunity to get even late in regulation when Martin Erat was award a penalty shot with 8:22 left in the third. With the Red Wings on the power play, Erat moved through the middle of the ice and had a leg up on Danny DeKeyser and Pavel Datsyuk. Chasing from behind, DeKeyser tried to poke the puck off Erat’s stick, but tripped the Coyotes’ veteran, making an easy for referee Eric Furlatt.
On the attempt, Erat, a left-handed shooter, tried to beat the rookie far side, but he was denied by the 22-year-old.
“I was expecting that he was going to shoot five hole or blocker,” Mrazek said. “He just shoot on the blocker and the blocker was there, so I was happy.”
Mrazek came up with his first big save in the first period after Niklas Kronwall’s turnover in the defensive end. Coyotes forward Lucas Lessio scooped up the puck and moved in alone on Mrazek who made a pad save.
Late in the second period, the Coyotes had four minutes of power-play time after Kyle Quincey received two-minutes each for hooking and unsportsmanlike conduct. But Mrazek kept the home team off the scoreboard, making several big save, including one on Sam Gagner from close range.
The Wings’ penalty kill was perfect, killing off five Coyotes’ power plays.
“In the end it was a good game for our team,” Babcock said. “You got to find ways to win and it’s different each and every night and tonight was a good two points.”