|Petr Mrazek made 22 saves to earn his first career shutout in the Stanley Cup playoffs, a 3-0 win over the Lightning in Game 3 on Tuesday. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings) |
DETROIT – Mike Babcock needed to get something off his chest.
It happened after the coach was asked about Petr Mrazek’s ability to shake off poor performances – like Saturday’s 5-1 loss in Game 2 at Tampa Bay – and bounce back to lead the Red Wings to subsequent wins – like he did Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena.
“If you think you can have a bounce-back game that means that you had a bad game,” Babcock said. “You’re not playing in the NHL if you keep having bad games. That’s all I’m trying to say. You gotta play good every night, that’s the National Hockey League, that’s how you get to be a starting goalie in the National Hockey League. We expect him to play good every night.”
Well, like it or not, Mrazek had perhaps his best, certainly his more important, bounce-back effort of his young NHL career.
Making just his third career playoff start, Mrazek stopped all 22 shots he faced, and the Red Wings got enough offense on goals by Pavel Datsyuk, Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening to claim a 3-0 win over the Lightning in Game 3, to grab a 2-1 series lead in their Eastern Conference first-round matchup.
Game 4 of the best-of-7 series is Thursday at 7 p.m. EDT at Joe Louis Arena.
The 23-year-old Mrazek is the first Wings rookie to earn a postseason shutout since Jimmy Howard blanked Phoenix in Game 4 of the 2010 Western Conference quarterfinals.
The Wings’ coach may not be enamored by the bounce-back phrase, but captain Henrik Zetterberg doesn’t have a problem with the young goalie’s ability to dust off the occasional bad start.
“He has confidence,” said Zetterberg, who picked up an assist in the win. “He knows he’s a good goalie. If stuff goes against him he forgets about it quick and comes in the next morning and works hard for the next game.”
Typically low key, the unabashed rookie embraces pressure. It definitely showed during six penalty-kill situations, which were all extinguished by the Red Wings’ special teams units. Mrazek did his part, stopping all six of the Lightning’s power-play shots.
“I felt great,” said Mrazek, the 19th goalie in franchise history to post a playoff shutout. “I think we played real well defensively today and guys helped me there so much and the huge part was the PK for us.”
Clinging to a 1-0 lead early in the second period, the Wings killed off a 56-second two-man disadvantage. It helped that Lightning center Tyler Johnson, who already has two goals in the series, hit the goal post during the sequence.
“When I saw 5 on 3 for, I think, one minute power play, that was a huge part of the game,” Mrazek said. “After that the game came on our side I would say a little bit."
Mrazek also denied Lightning center Brian Boyle on a shorthanded breakaway attempt 8:30 into the third. Boyle scored a similar goal on Mrazek in Game 1.
But in the same way he dealings with demoralizing losses, Mrazek doesn’t allow himself to hold on too long to the sweet success of victory either.
“Huge win for us, first game home, first win. But it’s over,” he said. “We have to look for Thursday now and we have two games more.”
On the five occasions that Mrazek has been relieved of a start this season, he has responded by posting a 4-0-1 record with a 1.38 goals-against average and .962 save percentage in the five starts, including Tuesday, that followed the games in which he was replaced.
“He played great,” fourth-liner Drew Miller said. “Maybe the last game didn’t go the way he wanted it to but we’ve got to help him out a little more on some of those goals that went in. We knew he’d come out like tonight, ready to go and be on his game.”
Someone else who was on his game was Justin Abdelkader, who was making his 2015 playoff debut. The Red Wings’ rugged forward rushed to Mrazek’s defense when the goalie was bowled over during a short-handed situation by Lightning center Cedric Paquette late in the third period.
“When I saw that play I thought it was a really dirty play,” Abdelkader said. “There’s no need for that. I took offense to it. It was one of those plays if I don’t do anything we’re on a 5 on 3, but I just thought it was a pretty dirty play and I was pretty upset by it.”
Abdelkader missed the past six games with a hand injury that he sustained while blocking a shot in Minnesota more than two weeks ago. Aside from the roughing penalty in the third, Abdelkader made a beautiful play to set up Sheahan’s power-play goal earlier in the period.
“Great play in the neutral zone,” Sheahan said. “Z made a nice pass to Abby. Abby made an unbelievable play. I just saw a little bit of an opening and I had some time and luckily it went in.”