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Stop on Ovechkin adds icing on Mrazek's shootout win

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — There was a bit of extra jubilation for goaltender Petr Mrazek after his last save in the shootout, clinching the Red Wings’ victory.

Mrazek’s save was on Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, one of the game's most prolific goalscorers.

But Mrazek’s save gave the Red Wings a 3-2 victory and ended a five-game losing streak.

On an afternoon Mrazek stopped 34 shots and was arguably the Red Wings’ best player, the save on Ovechkin was an exclamation point.

“It’s always special when you have a good player like that against you,” said Mrazek of facing the challenge posed by Ovechkin. “And you make the save.”

The victory ended a personal four-game winless streak for Mrazek, who coach Jeff Blashill feels turned a corner about a month ago but hasn’t getting the positive results.

Captain Henrik Zetterberg agrees.

Puck bounces Red Wings' way in shootout win over Caps

“The last four or five starts, we haven’t been able to get him the Ws (victories) but the way he’s been playing, we can’t ask more from him,” Zetterberg said. “We just have to find a way to score goals and he makes the saves.”

Tomas Tatar is one of Mrazek’s closest friends on the team and felt Mrazek simply needed confidence.

“We weren’t doing good but it was hard to put the blame on him,” Tatar said. “He was playing great. But when you don’t help him, it’s kind of hard for him.

“He’s playing great now. He makes those saves, which make a difference in a game, and that’s huge for us. We trust him.”

Now playing with confidence and having refined his technique with goaltending coach Jeff Salajko, Blashill feels Mrazek is sustaining a long stretch of good goaltending.

“Confidence is one thing, when it’s not going good, it probably shakes your confidence for any human being,” Blashill said. “I can’t speak for Petr, I’ll let him speak for himself. But he’s really worked hard at improving his technique. He went to work with Jeff Salajko, and he’s been coming out of this for a long time.

“He’s been playing great but not getting rewarded. At the goalie position, some pucks go in regardless of what you do.”

Shootout masters

The Red Wings are 7-0 in shootouts this season after Saturday’s victory.

The addition of Thomas Vanek (who had a shootout goal Saturday) and Frans Nielsen (who was stopped Saturday, but has been prolific throughout his career) has helped, but also Henrik Zetterberg, who scored Saturdays’ game-winner, has rebounded with a perfect 3-for-3 performance in the shootout this season.

“It’s always fun to get a chance in the shootout,” Zetterberg said. “It was nice to see it go in.”

Vanek is 5-for-5 and leads the NHL in shootout goals.

With the clock winding down in overtime, and the game still tied, Blashill had the Red Wings play to get to the shootout given the Red Wings’ 3-10 record in the 3-on-3 session.

“Early in the 3-on-3 we did some different things with three forwards (on the ice) to try to win,” Blashill said. “Once we got later, I said to myself ‘let’s get to the shootout’ because we find ways to win in the shootout.

“We have some real good shooters and Petr and Jimmy Howard and (Jared) Coreau have done a good job of stopping (opposing) shooters.”

Bright future

One positive in this otherwise disappointing season has the chance for younger players to play and learn at the NHL level.

Frans Nielsen feels the organization will be in good hands for a long time with talent such as Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha.

“We’re absolutely not where we want to be and think we should be with the talent that is in that room,” Nielsen said. “(But) within the next couple of years, we might have three of the best players in the league in those three.

“We’ve got some great young players to bild this team around.”

Ice chips

The Red Wings were without defenseman Mike Green, whom general manager Ken Holland said was sick. Green’s availability for the Pittsburgh game is unknown.

Ryan Sproul replaced Green in the lineup. Tomas Jurco was the healthy scratch among the forwards.

… Saturday’s game was part of the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” campaign. Coaches and staff members wore You Can Play lapel pins, and several players used Pride tape on their hockey sticks during warm-ups, those sticks auctioned off to raise funds for the You Can Play, an organization.

The organization looks to ensure equality, safety and respect for all athletes, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

… The Red Wings ended Washington goalie Braden Holtby’s 14-game win streak and held the Capitals under five goals for the first time in five games.

… Steve Ott tied a Red Wings’ season-high with seven hits.

Red Wings at Penguins

Faceoff: 3 p.m. Sunday, PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh

TV/radio: NBC/97.1

Outlook: The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins (36-13-8, 80 points) look capable of winning again this spring. … They have been dominant at home (24-3-3). … C Sidney Crosby passed 1,000 career points earlier in the week.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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