TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Petr Mrazek’s confidence is growing by the victory.
One more win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Detroit Red Wings and their young goaltender will advance in the NHL playoffs.
“Calm, solid all the way through,” veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall said about the 23-year-old goalie from the Czech Republic. “Doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low.”
Mrazek stopped 28 shots for his second shutout of the series Saturday night, helping the Red Wings rebound from a disappointing loss in the previous game to beat the Lightning 4-0 and take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven first-round matchup.
Riley Sheahan, Drew Miller, Pavel Datsyuk and Danny DeKeyser scored for the Red Wings. They can eliminate Tampa Bay by winning Game 6 at home Monday night.
“No team’s been able to win two games in a row in this series, and so now we’ve got to get our mind right, get it ready for the next game,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “That, to me, is the biggest thing in the series. You’ve got to keep getting better, and you’ve got to find a way to do it when you get your opportunities.”
The shutout was the second in three games for Mrazek, who had no previous NHL playoff experience before being named Detroit’s starter over veteran Jimmy Howard. He blanked the Lightning 3-0 in Game 3 at home and also had the only shutout against the league’s highest-scoring team during the regular season.
“He’s an elite competitor … and he’s got good savvy about him. He thinks he’s going to win,” Babcock said. “He’s a real confident guy, and he’s got great athleticism.”
It was a frustrating evening for Tampa Bay, which rallied to win Game 4 on the road, evening the series after fizzling in Game 3 and being outplayed for 54 minutes before Tyler Johnson revived their hopes on Thursday night.
The Red Wings outshot the potent Lightning 30-28, and held Tampa Bay Steven Stamkos — one of the NHL’s most prolific scorers — without a goal again.
“It’s tough,” said Stamkos, who got off just two shots against Mrazek and has just one assist in the series after scoring 43 goals — second-most in the league — during the regular season. “Obviously, I want to produce, and it’s not for lack of effort. … It’s just not going like I want it.”
Sheahan and Datsyuk scored on the power play. Miller’s first goal of the series made it 2-0 through the second period, and DeKeyser added an empty-net goal with 1:38 remaining.
On Thursday night in Detroit, the Red Wings were 6 minutes away from taking a 3-1 series lead before Johnson led a stirring Tampa Bay comeback that brought the series back to Amalie Arena tied at two games apiece.
The Lightning went 118 minutes without a goal before Johnson beat Mrazek twice and assisted on a third within a span of less than 8 minutes to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 overtime win, yet that didn’t translate into momentum for Game 5.
This time, they went more than 20 minutes of stretch bridging the first and second periods without getting a shot.
“It’s been frustrating not to score, especially for a team that’s used to scoring,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. ” If you take the overtime out of this, we haven’t scored in 8 of the last nine periods. When the object is to score, it’s tough to win without scoring.”
The Red Wings weathered an early barrage of shots, as well as Tampa Bay’s first power-play opportunity, to take a 1-0 lead on Sheahan’s second goal of the series late in the first period. Niklas Kronwall and Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg assisted on the score, coming with Tampa Bay’s Ondrej Palat in the penalty box for hooking and just 23 seconds remaining in the opening period.
Luke Glendening, playing despite a right hand injury that forced him to leave Game 4, assisted on Miller’s goal that made it 2-0. The Detroit center scored in each of the Red Wings’ first two victories and his only shot Saturday caromed off Ben Bishop’s right leg, leaving the puck in position for an easy tap-in for Miller skating into the middle.
” We kind of shot ourselves in the foot in the first period, and by the third period it was too little, too late,” Stamkos said. “No one said this was going to be easy. We need to find a way to do what we did last time at their rink and bring it back here (for Game 7). There’s nothing else to do but work hard and try to win.”
Notes: Despite getting off to a nice start on Sheahan’s goal and Datsyuk adding his third goal of the series late, the Red Wings finished 2 for 4 on power-play opportunities and are just 4 of 19 for the series. … The Lightning, who averaged a NHL-high 3.16 goals per game during the regular season, have struggled in man-advantage situations. They were 0 of 3 on Saturday and are 2 for 24 through five games. … Tampa Bay has two shutout losses in a playoff series for the first time since 2011 Eastern Conference finals against Boston.
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