DETROIT – What does Petr Mrazek have in common with one the NHL’s all-time best goaltenders?
The Red Wings’ rookie goalie became the first to shutout the Tampa Bay Lightning since the great Martin Brodeur did so more than 15 months ago.
Mrazek made 23 saves and the Wings went on a second-period scoring burst en route to a must-needed 4-0 victory over the Lightning Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.
“It felt great. Two points are huge for us. It was a big game,” Mrazek said.
Indeed, with two weeks remaining in the regular season, Saturday’s win was big for the Wings (92 points) as they try to hold off Boston (87) and Ottawa (86) for third place in the Atlantic Division playoff standings.
“It was a big win for us, after what we’ve been through lately,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “The way we played today I think that was the key. A lot of patience; got the puck deep in their end and didn’t really give them that many chances. And then we took care of our own.”
Though he didn’t have a lot of work, Mrazek – he faced no more than nine shots in any period – was very sharp. It also helped that he had plenty of support, especially on the penalty kill, something that was missing in losses to Arizona and San Jose this week.
Tampa Bay’s highly-potent offense leads the league. The Lightning has scored 242 goals – that’s 3.18 goals per game – but the Red Wings did all the little things to procure the win. They won all the individual battles, out-raced the Lightning to most of the loose pucks in all three zones, and the defense was solid in front Mrazek, who made big saves at all the right times.
Mrazek is the first to shutout Tampa Bay in 126 games, dating back to Dec. 14, 2013 when New Jersey’s Brodeur made 33 saves in a 3-0 win.
Mrazek started in place of Jimmy Howard, who remains the Red Wings’ No. 1 goaltender, despite two poor performances, where he surrendered eight goals in losses to Arizona and San Jose last week. Mrazek’s effort also earned him another start. The 23-year-old will start Sunday against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
“I thought he was real solid today,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We didn’t give him a ton of work, but he was real good with the puck. That helps our D, and he was solid when he needed to be. He didn’t have much work today, so that gives him an opportunity to go tomorrow because he didn’t have much work today, and it gives Howie an opportunity to work with Jimmy Bedard and freshen up.”
Mrazek also pitched in on the scoring in the second period, though he wasn’t credited with an assist. Following even-strength goals by Joakim Andersson and Justin Abdelkader, the young goalie made a heads-up play capping Detroit’s second-period onslaught.
In one continuous motion Mrazek made a blocker save on Andrej Sustr’s shot, steering the puck toward Kyle Quincey in the high slot. The Wings’ defenseman corralled the puck while spotting Gustav Nyquist cutting through the neutral zone, but the stretch pass eluded the speedy forward turning what seemed a good scoring opportunity into a sure icing. But Nyquist didn’t give up on the play, out-racing Lightning defenseman Matt Carle to puck before stretching out to chip it over goalir Ben Bishop for a 3-0 lead at 9:19.
“The guy was there alone, so I had the time to go up a little bit, out of the blue, be bigger in the net,” said Mrazek, of the third goal. “It hit my blocker and came onto Q’s stick and he passed it to Nyquie, so that was a huge goal. … I just tried to save the puck and put the puck in the corner or somewhere where the players aren’t there. It was a lucky bounce.”
The Wings have come to trust Mrazek for his puck-handling acumen, which adds a different dimension to the team’s break outs.
“I played with him in Grand Rapids and we’ve all seen what he’s done this year. Obviously a real solid game,” said Luke Glendening, who added an empty-net goal at 18:21. “I feel like every time he comes in he plays well. It gives Howie a break and changes things up. They’re both great goalies. It’s nice to have two good goalies like that.”