Former Red Wing Mrazek has shutout in return from injury

Bob Sutton
Associated Press

Raleigh — More than two months later, Petr Mrazek still has his edge.

Mrazek made 28 saves in his first game back after a lengthy absence as the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Dallas Stars 1-0 on Sunday night.

“It felt good to be back,” Mrazek said. “It has been a long journey.”

Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek watches the puck while Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei (76) defends against Dallas Stars right wing Denis Gurianov (34) and center Justin Dowling (37).

Mrazek, who notched his third shutout of the season, played for the first time since suffering a thumb injury Jan. 30 against Dallas.

Stars coach Rick Bowness didn’t return to the bench for the third period because of what the team announced was a COVID protocol.

Jordan Martinook’s second-period goal was enough scoring for the Hurricanes.

Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger made 37 saves just a night after a 41-save outing in a victory against Carolina.

Mrazek was tied with two other goalies for the league lead with two shutouts when he was injured in late January. He had surgery on his right thumb as a result of an injury while playing the Stars.

Now, he’s one of only six NHL goalies dating back to 1943-44 to have shutouts in his first three wins of a season.

“He’s a gamer,” Martinook said. “It was good to see him back in there. The results speak for themselves. He played phenomenal. Big saves when we needed them.”

Mrazek joined former standout Arturs Irbe as the only goalies in franchise history with at least three shutouts in three consecutive seasons.

Mrazek returned to form in his first game back, though he made a conditioning outing with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves in preparation for being back in the NHL.

“I think the first period I was looking for myself a little bit there,” Mrazek said. “I was all over the place. … I think in the second period, I established myself.”

The Hurricanes had good goalie work for stretches with Mrazek out of the lineup. Alex Nedeljkovic, who played Saturday night, was scratched for Sunday’s game. That meant James Reimer, who has a 14-4-1 record this season, was the backup for both weekend games.

Mrazek stopped 12 shots in the third period.

“He didn’t have a lot of work for two (periods),” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “When we needed him to make some saves there in the last five minutes, he made three or four really just spectacular.”

Bowness wasn’t around to witness his team’s best period because of a positive COVID test.

“We did communicate with the league and they agreed with us: Let’s get him out of the game,” Dallas general manager Jim Nill said of continuing the game without Bowness. “Because of his situation of being vaccinated, and we’d usually regularly get these tests sometime early tomorrow morning. But because this one came back quicker, we consulted with the league and everybody decided this was the right situation.”

The Stars had won consecutive games for the first time since the opening four games of the season.