Mrazek sensational, Wings take opener
Tampa Bay — In Game 1, the Red Wings had the goalie advantage by a wide margin.
And as good goaltending will do, it helped the Red Wings swipe a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Petr Mrazek was sensational in net for the Red Wings, stopping 44 shots — the Lightning outshot the Red Wings 46-14 — and easing the fears of any fans who weren't sure if he would capably replace Jimmy Howard.
But Mrazek was ready, and the penalty kill was key also as the Red Wings killed all seven Tampa Bay power plays.
"Obviously Petr really saved us tonight," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "The penalty kill was good, but other than that we have a lot of stuff we have to be better at.
"He (Mrazek) helped us more than we helped him."
Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop, like Mrazek making his NHL playoffs debut, was not as good. Bishop only stopped 11 shots and allowed a momentum-sapping shorthanded goal to Luke Glendening in the third period, suddenly producing goalie questions for Tampa Bay.
Pavel Datsyuk had two goals (one on the power play) and along with Glendening's shorthanded goal, that was all the offense the Red Wings needed.
"We like to pick up our goalie when he's not playing as good, and we like for him to pick us up when we're not as good," coach Mike Babcock said. "We did a good job and found a way to win as team. It wouldn't have been the way I would have drawn it up.
"We have to get quicker. They did a good job of backing us up and we didn't execute early with the puck and they got momentum. We have to be heavier in the offensive zone."
Brian Boyle (shorthanded) and Nikita Nesterov scored for the Lightning.
Glendening's shorthanded goal, a spinning backhand cutting through the slot, put the Red Wings ahead 3-1 at 5:50.
The shot went through Bishop's legs, a goal Bishop would surely back.
"It was pretty fortunate," Glendending said. "I'll take what I can get."
But instead of going into a shell, the Lightning came out with an immediate push.
They put all sorts of pressure on the Red Wings and finally capitalized when Nesterov wristed a shot from the high slot past Mrazek, who had bodies in front and went left while Nesterov's shot slid right.
But Mrazek stood tall the rest of the way, killing two late Lightning power plays.
"It was fun," Mrazek said of the game. "Big, huge crowd. It was huge for us to get the first win. When they shot from everywhere in the first period, it helped me get into the game."
Datsyuk broke a 1-1 tie just eight seconds into the second period with his second goal.
After he won the faceoff, the puck went into the Tampa zone where Darren Helm got control of it near the boards, then saw Datsyuk streaking toward the slot.
Datsyuk used a fine screen from Tomas Jurco net-front, and whistled a shot that flew past goaltender Ben Bishop to break a 1-1 tie.
The goal set a new playoff record for quickest in a period in Red Wings history.
"It's a big goalie (6-foot-7 Bishop), we have to get screens there and shoot and follow the rebound," Datsyuk said. "It's a good feeling now but there's a lot of (work) ahead of us. If we play together we have a chance."
Mrazek held the lead the rest of the period as the Lightning pressured throughout.
Twice Mrazek gloved and stalled 2-on-1 Tampa rushes with glove saves on Braydon Coburn and Cedric Paquette, keeping the Red Wings ahead.
The Red Wings scored on their first shot of the game — a little over nine minutes into the game.
Helm got the play going retrieving the puck in the corner and found Kyle Quincey alone at the top of the slot.
Quincey's shot was perfectly redirected by Datsyuk, who was uncovered just in front of the crease, the puck going past Bishop.
The Red Wings had been outshot 4-0 to that point and were having all sorts of difficulty simply getting out of their zone.
When Tampa's Ryan Callahan was whistled for holding Datsyuk at 14:04, it appeared the Red Wings had an opportunity to grab early control.
But the Lightning answered with a crushing goal.
Marek Zidlicky had the puck on the point and his shot was blocked by Boyle, who won a race for the loose puck down the ice.
Boyle came down the wing, went backhand-forehand, and slipped the puck past Mrazek at 14:31, tying the game.
Mrazek kept the Red Wings in the game with a sharp first-period performance, as Tampa Bay outshot the Red Wings 10-3.