Mrazek shuts out Lightning as Wings win 4-0
Detroit — When the horn sounded, one could almost feel the team and fans exhaling in unison, each letting out a big sigh.
Improving in every facet of their performance, the Red Wings shut out the most potent offense in the NHL Saturday afternoon, beating the Lightning 4-0.
The Wings started on time, turned over the puck a lot less, allowed far fewer odd-man rushed, killed all of their penalties and supported their goaltender — especially in front of him.
They sealed the deal with three goals in 3:54 of play in the second period
Petr Mrazek responded with a far cleaner performance than in some of his recent games, especially setting up at good angles against shooters.
Coach Mike Babcock said the 23-year-old rookie will also start Sunday.
With eight games left in the regular season, the Red Wings will hope they have turned a page on a mischievous month. They lost the edge of their fine performance through the first several months of the season and failed to correct persistent problems for three weeks.
Entering a weekend with games against two of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, with questions about their goaltending and play all over the ice, they hope the shutout win Saturday is a big step.
But the turnaround is quick, as they play the Islanders, who have the second-most potent offense in the NHL, at 5 p.m., Sunday.
Meanwhile, consistency has not been the Wings' strong point.
"I thought our guys executed well," Babcock said. "We played tight; didn't give up a bunch.
"We were able to find a way to get some goals. We had some puck luck, and we scored some goals and found a way to leave the building feeling good about ourselves, which is a positive."
Henrik Zetterberg said there was better play all over the ice.
And the timing of the enhancements was extraordinary.
"Obviously, it was a big win for us, after what we've been through lately," Zetterberg said. "And, the way we played today, that was the key.
"We had a lot of patience. We got the puck deep in their end. We didn't really give them a lot of chances. And then, we took care of our own (chances)."
Mrazek made some key stops, including on Brian Boyle, from directly in front of him, just after Boyle had left the penalty box at about 6:20 of the first period.
The 23-year-old rookie stopped all 23 shots he faced on the way to his 15th win this season.
"The two points are huge for us," Mrazek said. "That was a big game.
"I saw the puck real well…. I saw every puck.
"When you're up 3-0 and you are playing at home, and you've lost three in a row, that's huge," he said of his comfort in net during the second and third periods.
The first period was scoreless, and there was already a good sign for the Wings. Having given away the puck nine times in the first period against the Sharks, Thursday, they had just one giveaway to the potent Lightning attack.
The penalty kill was strong all game, and Drew Miller blocked five shots and Luke Glendening three, along the way.
Then, a few minutes later, Andersson opened the scoring, assisted by Kyle Quincey and Stephen Weiss. Andersson scored at 5:25, crashing the crease, after a couple of deft passes turned the tables quickly on a Lightning turnover deep in their own zone.
It was the first time the Red Wing started with the lead in six games.
Less than two minutes later, Justin Abdelkader scored his 23rd of the season.
Gustav Nyquist and Abdelkader stiffly back-checked the Lightning, as they left their zone. As the play reached the center red line, Nyquist helped force a turnover, and Abdlekader was off with considerable speed.
He went in alone and picked the top left corner over the 6-foot-7 Ben Bishop's shoulder, beating the Lightning goalie at 7:19.
Nyquist added his 24th goal exactly two minutes later, with an assist from Quincey, his 15th.
Glendening scored the fourth into an empty net with 1:39 left.
Of the three-goal, second-period outburst, Glendening said, "That was huge for us …And we were able to build on that for the third."
Pavel Datsyuk re-entered the lineup after missing five games since March 15.
Datsyuk played 18:19, second only to Darren Helm (19:45) among Wings' forwards. He had no points, two shots on net, seven attempts, two hits, one giveaway, one takeaway and he was 11-3 in the face-off circle (79 percent).
"He's a game-changer," Glendening said. "He just slows down the game, and gives us a lot more confidence.
"To have him in the lineup is huge."
The Red Wings could well face the Lightning in the first round of the playoffs, and they were 0-3, before Saturday. But neither Babcock nor Zetterberg saw the shutout win "a statement," necessarily.
It was, however, a big win at an important juncture, for a struggling team.
"We played better, you know?" Zetterberg said.
"We didn't give them a lot of odd-man rushes, and we kept it tight in front of Petr. That makes it easier."
For Babcock, a win is simply a win.
"No, no statement," he said. "But, we won a game. So we gain from that, for sure.
"I thought we played Tampa real tight the last game. They got an empty-net goal to beat us 3-1. But, that's a real tight game.
"Obviously, we're in a situation where we just need to win the game and get in the playoffs. We'll worry about who we play after we get in."
But Babcock clearly liked the Wings team he saw playing, Saturday.
"I thought we had good contributions from our whole group. The D really moved the puck. We were solid and committed as a group, and focused and ready to go from the start.
"And you have a chance to be successful, when you are prepared."