Datsyuk rises to the occasion in Game 1
Tampa Bay — At this time of year it becomes almost expected.
But it's pretty special to watch what Pavel Datsyuk can accomplish when the games matter the most, such as Thursday's Game 1 victory over Tampa Bay.
Datsyuk scored the first two goals in a 3-2 victory over the Lightning, again providing a big lift when the Red Wings needed it most.
"He was unreal," said Wings coach Mike Babcock, who has seen Datsyuk's brilliance often before.
Datsyuk had two goals on his only two shots on net, was credited with two hits and was one of the Red Wings' better forwards — and there weren't many — in 18 minutes, 2 seconds of ice time.
"Not really," said captain (and linemate) Henrik Zetterberg, when asked whether it's any surprise Datsyuk played so well. "He comes and played well again. He finished the season real strong and had two goals today.
"I don't think a lot of people are surprised."
Datsyuk was slowed by an ankle injury late in the season but the week off between his final regular season game and Game 1 Thursday appeared to help.
On his first goal, Datsyuk redirected a shot from Kyle Quincey from the high slot. It was the Red Wings' first shot on net, 9:03 into the game.
Datsyuk put the Red Wings ahead 2-1 just eight seconds into the second period, on the power play.
A perfectly placed shot from the slot, with Tomas Jurco providing a nice screen on 6-foot-7 goalie Ben Bishop, regained the game's momentum for the Red Wings.
"He's phenomenal to watch," said Luke Glendening, who scored a Datsyuk-like magical goal in the third period. "An unbelievable talent. To have him on our team is a big bonus."
Any team's best penalty killer is the goaltender, and in this game Petr Mrazek was outstanding for the Red Wings.
But the Red Wings killed all seven Tampa Bay power plays in this game, and give credit to the people in front of Mrazek.
Glendening, in fact, scored the shorthanded goal that gave the Red Wings a 3-1 lead at 5:50 of the third period.
"(The difference) was our work ethic," Glendening said. "From the outset we were committed to getting to pucks and blocking shots.
"Obviously your best penalty killer has to be your goalie and Mrazek was great."
Thanks mainly to Mrazek, the Red Wings earned a victory in Game 1 but there's plenty of room for improvement.
The Red Wings were bottled up in their zone most of the night, never did have much sustained time in the Lightning zone, and took too many penalties.
"It was tough to get any momentum," Zetterberg said. "When we got our power plays we didn't get any momentum and when they got their power plays, they got momentum and kept playing.
"It was tough on our defense, and we took a lot of penalties, too. But it goes hand in hand when you play in your own end for a long time."
Babcock would like to see better performances from some of his forwards, which would have helped the defense in Game 1, and feels could go a long way toward improving the Red Wings overall.
"We have to get all hands on deck and get back to how we're capable of playing," Babcock said. "We have to get heavier (in the Tampa zone) and spend time in their end."