|Petr Mrazek makes a second-period save on Patric Hornqvist. The Red Wings' rookie goalie made 42 saves in Detroit's 5-1 win Sunday afternoon. (Photo by Getty Images) |
PITTSBURGH – So what’s it like to jump right in as the new guy on a team and produce night after night on the league’s top power play?
For 38-year-old veteran Marek Zidlicky it’s been an easy transition.
“The skill guys make it much easier for you,” said Zidlicky, whose first three-point effort since joining the Red Wings at the trade deadline helped his new club to a much needed 5-1 victory Sunday afternoon over the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center.
Zidlicky is the second Wings’ defenseman to produce three points in a game this season. The other was Niklas Kronwall, who had two goals and an assist, also against the Penguins, in a 4-3 win on Oct. 23 at Joe Louis Arena.
All three of Zidlicky’s goals in a Wings’ sweater – and half of his four assists – have come on the power play.
Asked what Zidlicky has brought to the Wings, coach Mike Babcock did not hesitate.
“A bomb,” the coach said. “He can flat out just shoot the puck, which is great, even to the point where he’s got to shoot it more, on the power play especially.”
The veteran blueliner had gone 235 straight games between three-point efforts. His last came as a member of the Minnesota Wild on Dec. 29, 2011.
The adjustment to a new team while leaving his wife and young son behind in New Jersey isn’t easy, but it’s all part of the business. However, it helps, he said, to have such great leaders as Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Kronwall to lean on.
But it’s an adjustment for anyone who has ever been traded during the season.
“It is for everybody,” Zidlicky said. “It’s not easy, especially when you move from family. New system, new team, new rink, everything is new. The guys help me on and off the ice, so that’s good for me.”
Zidlicky has immediately assimilated to the new surroundings, especially with his teammates on the Wings’ first power-play unit, as well as with Brendan Smith, who has been his regular defensive partner in the past seven games.
“This team has really, really good players and it’s comfortable for me, especially on the power play,” said Zidlicky, who has seven points in seven games since arriving from New Jersey, where he had 23 points in 63 games.
“It’s skill guys. They’ve got great skill,” he added. “It’s unbelievable how they handle the puck. They are strong with the puck and strong up front so that makes it easy for me.”
Following Saturday’s debacle in Philadelphia, the team’s leadership held a players-only meeting.
“We just said ‘enough is enough’ and we’ve got to go out and play,” Zetterberg said. “We’ve got to enjoy playing first of all. It was like everyone was a little afraid out there and not embracing it but today was a lot better.”
The Red Wings played with much more intensity and urgency than they did in their 7-2 loss to the Flyers the day before. Detroit jumped on the Penguins in the first 81 seconds when Riley Sheahan tipped a Zidlicky blue-line blast before Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury knew what happened.
The oldest player on the Wings’ roster, the 38-year-old Zidlicky also assisted on the Wings’ second goal when Teemu Pulkkinen fired a rocket of a shot from the left circle that found the back of the net at 18:06 of the first period.
The assists were Zidlicky’s first 5-on-5 points with his new club.
After Blake Comeau appeared to hurt himself while delivering a hit on Zetterberg behind the play, all heck broke loose as the clubs combined on 18 minutes of penalties in the final minute of the opening period. There were 78 minutes of penalties in the game.
The bitterness continued as the teams head into the first intermission and spilled into the next period where the Wings began a 5-on-3 power play.
Patiently, the Wings buzzed the Penguins zone before Zetterberg made a pass out in front to Zidlicky who unleashed a bullet of a shot that gave the Wings a 3-0 lead just 39 seconds into the period.
“We talked about that before the third period started,” Zidlicky said, “so that (play) was set up.”
Seven minutes later, Zetterberg ended a 15-game goal scoring drought by tapping in a perfect pass from Gustav Nyquist at the side of the Pens’ crease. Detroit’s four-goal lead ended Fleury’s afternoon, as he was lifted for backup Thomas Greiss for just the third time this season.
The Wings opened up a 5-0 lead on Pulkkinen’s second goal of the game, his fifth of the season.
Goalie Petr Mrazek stopped 42 shots to run his NHL record to 14-5-1 this season.
“Obviously it was a big win for us after the way we’ve played lately,” Zetterberg said. “It was nice to see we got a good start and that we scored some goals.”