Larkin nets brilliant goal, Mrazek shuts out Devils
Newark, N.J. — The Red Wings competitive edge is re-emerging.
Sparked by a brilliant, highlight-reel play from Dylan Larkin, Brad Richards and Riley Sheahan for the only goal of the game, the Wings beat the Devils Monday, 1-0, for their second consecutive win.
Petr Mrazek, starting his third consecutive game — the first time all season a Wings goalie has started in three straight — stopped 22 shots for his second shutout of the year.
He was aided considerably by his mates, who blocked 15 Devils shots.
"I thought we did a good job, two games in a row now, of the competitive level being extremely high," coach Jeff Blashill said.
"I thought especially the third period. That was the best third period we played all season, with the lead."
Larkin scored his 14th goal of the season to recapture the lead among rookies, after he was sent in on a breakaway with a terrific pinpoint pass from Richards.
Richards got the puck from Sheahan, who pounced on it in the Wings' zone, pirouetted deftly and hit Richards squarely up the sideboards.
Then, Richards pass came from 15 feet inside the Red Wings' blue line almost entirely across the ice to Larkin at nearly the precise moment he crossed the Devils' blue line.
"That pass that Richards made to Larkin, you don't see that too often," Henrik Zetterberg said.
With a devilish deke, the rookie froze goalie Cory Schneider and the easily beat him with a shot into a wide-open right side of the net.
Larkin said there was some forethought to the play. Richards had suggested that Larkin release early from defensive positioning, if the moment was available.
"It was a good road game for us," Zetterberg said. "I don't know how much fun it was for the fans.
"But we got that one goal and we just kind of played on that, and it was one of the best third periods when we had the lead. As you know, we've struggled a little bit with our leads."
Mrazek was solid in net, including a huge stop on Travis Zajac in the opening minutes of the game.
Throughout, the Wings demonstrated a competitive edge that lacked at times, recently, during a 3-5-2 stretch. The win also allowed them to keep pace in the tight NHL standings.
They achieved some of their priorities, playing with considerable competitiveness and taking care of the puck. But their special teams were not tested.
Mrazek was sharp for the first 20 minutes of his third consecutive start.
The Wings lifted their competitive edge at the start of the second period, taking a strong lead in shots and pushing the initiative in the Devils' zone.
Both teams entered the game with 45 points in the glove tight Eastern Conference standings. But their more recent performances were opposites, with the Devils winning three straight and the Wings one, after losing the previous three.
Noted for his composure and resilience early in his career, Mrazek was unlikely to sputter, despite grabbing the net for a third straight game. But he seemed consummately composed, with a quiet style in the crease.
Another clear priority for the Wings is regaining their better performances on both the penalty kill and the power play. They killed two penalties, but failed to score on their only power play.
But an improved Devils squad, under rookie coach John Hynes, is a task, regardless.
An advantage for the Red Wings however was the loss of the former Michigan star, Mike Cammalleri, in the Devils' lineup. Cammalleri is having a marvelous season, leading his team with 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists) after bouncing around the NHL for much of his career.
As the game wore on, it was clear the Devils could have used the firepower. When they pressed, they lacked finish.
With the score 1-0 through such a long stretch of the game, it was easy to envision another third period of disappointment. Instead, the Wings played perhaps their best final frame of the season through 40 games.
"We didn't give much up, at all," Blashill said. "We created some chances. We really checked well. We won tons of stick battles.
"That's the way you have to play to be successful
"Obviously, it was right down to the end but that's this league every night."