TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Detroit’s Petr Mrazek rejected shot after shot, making the decision to give him his first NHL playoff start look like a wise one.
The Red Wings won Game 1 of their opening-round Eastern Conference series against the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 Thursday night, with their young goaltender finishing with 44 saves and veteran Pavel Datsyuk scoring two goals.
”Found a way to win as a team. It wouldn’t have been the way I would have drawn it up, but I don’t care, you got a win,” Detroit’s Mike Babcock said after becoming the 10th coach in league history with 80 playoff victories. ”Mrazek stood tall for us. We can all get better, which is a positive thing.”
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Datsyuk scored on two of the first four shots the Red Wings got against Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop. Luke Glendening’s short-handed goal gave Detroit a 3-1 lead early in the third period.
Mrazek, named Detroit’s starter for Game 1 over the struggling but much more experienced Jimmy Howard, gave up a short-handed goal to Brian Boyle in the first period and a late goal to Nikita Nesterov that enabled the Lightning to pull within 3-2.
Tampa Bay outshot the Red Wings 46-14, but went 0 for 7 on the power play – failing to even get a shot off on the final opportunity in the closing seconds. It was the fewest shots Detroit has attempted in a game this season, as well as the most it has allowed an opponent.
”The first five minutes they shoot from everywhere. It’s a huge part of the game,” the 23-year-old Mrazek said. ”It was so fun. Huge crowd. It’s huge we got the first win.”
It’s a nice start to the playoffs for the Red Wings, who are making their 24th consecutive appearance but haven’t advanced beyond the second round since 2009.
”Petr really saved us tonight,” Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. ”We knew he was a good goalie.”
It’s the second straight season Tampa Bay has dropped its opener in the first round at home. The Lightning also lost Game 2 at Amalie Arena on the way to being swept by Montreal a year ago.
Game 2 of this best-of-7 matchup is Saturday in Tampa.
”We competed very hard. It just didn’t go in for us,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. ”But if we play that same way, with that compete and that effort and get those quality chances, they’re eventually going to go in. We have to be proud of the effort and buckle down a little on the power play.”
The Lightning were the league’s highest-scoring team while setting franchise records with 50 wins, 108 points and an NHL-best 32 victories at home. They won three of four against the Red Wings during the regular season, scoring five goals on 15 shots against Mrazek in a home victory on Jan. 29 but losing 4-0 when they faced the young goalie again in Detroit on March 28. That’s the only time Tampa Bay’s potent offense has been shut out this season.
Datsyuk’s 40th career playoff goal came on Detroit’s first shot of the game, but the Red Wings wasted an opportunity to put additional pressure on Bishop when Marek Zidlicky turned the puck over to Boyle, and the Lightning center skated in on Mrazek alone for an unassisted short-hand goal that made it 1-1 late in the opening period. It remained even when Bishop got a glove on Drew Miller’s short-handed shot during Tampa Bay’s first power-play opportunity.
Datsyuk scored again just 8 seconds into the second period, with Darren Helm getting his second assist of the night on the power-play goal.
The Lightning outshot the Red Wings 27-10 in the first two periods, but had little to show for it. Their persistence finally paid off after Glendening’s short-handed goal on a back-hand shot from in front of Bishop lifted the Red Wings into a 3-1 lead.
Nesterov’s goal made it interesting, but Mrazek handled everything Tampa Bay threw at him in the closing minutes to hold on.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Tampa Bay essentially did everything it wanted to do except win.
”I couldn’t draw the game up any better than the way we played it. It’s tough,” Cooper said. ”Ultimately, it’s not really how many you score. It’s how many you keep out.”
NOTES: It’s the first playoff series between the Red Wings and Lightning. … Babcock has an 80-58 postseason record. … Bishop, who like Mrazek was making his NHL playoff debut, finished with 11 saves. …. Detroit LW Justin Abdelkader took part in the morning skate, but missed his fifth straight game with a hand injury. … Tampa Bay D Braydon Coburn (14 games, lower body), D Andrej Sustr (six games, upper body) and C Alex Killorn (three games, undisclosed) returned after being sidelined down the stretch with injuries. D Jason Garrison (upper body) is practicing and is day to day. … Lightning rookie LW Jonathan Drouin, taken third overall in the 2013 draft, was a healthy scratch.