(SportsNetwork.com) – Mike Babcock’s decision to go with Peter Mrazek as the
starting goaltender in the playoffs seemed like a risky move at the time, but
now it looks like a stroke of genius.
Mrazek will try to anchor the Detroit Red Wings to a series-clinching victory
on Monday, when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 from Joe Louis
Babcock favored the 23-year-old rookie as the club’s No. 1 option in net over
Jimmy Howard down the stretch and Mrazek was able to lead Detroit to its 24th
straight playoff appearance. Mrazek has continued to impress here in the
postseason, recording a 1.91 goals against average and .937 save percentage
through five games.
The Czech netminder was tagged for three late goals in the Lightning’s road
comeback win in Game 4, but he bounced back Saturday in Tampa with his second
shutout of this series. Mrazek stopped 28 shots to anchor a 4-0 win and give
the Red Wings a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Mrazek, who made 22 stops in a 3-0 victory in Game 3, turned aside 14 shots in
the third period alone on Saturday to help the Red Wings avoid another late
The victory puts Detroit just one win away from advancing to the second round,
where it would face Montreal. The Habs ousted the Ottawa Senators in six games
during the opening round.
Pavel Datsyuk, Riley Sheahan, Drew Miller and Danny DeKeyser all scored for
Detroit in Game 5.
“I thought our team played well today,” said Miller. “It starts with our
goaltender and he played great.”
The Red Wings went 2-for-4 on the power play, while killing off all three of
the Lightning’s chances with the man advantage.
Ben Bishop allowed three goals on 29 shots in the loss, but the big story for
Tampa continued to be the team’s struggling offense. The Lightning led the NHL
with an average of 3.16 goals per game during the regular season, but only has
10 goals through five games in this series.
Steven Stamkos, who was second in the league with 43 goals this season, has
yet to score for the Lightning and has gone without a goal in eight straight
playoff games overall. Tampa’s captain hasn’t scored since the opener of last
spring’s four-game loss against Montreal in the first round.
Stamkos has two assists and eight penalty minutes in this series. He was
whistled for hooking late in the third period of Game 5, leading to a Datsyuk
power-play goal which made it a 3-0 game with 4:13 remaining.
“It’s tough,” said Stamkos. “Obviously I want to produce. It’s not for lack of
effort … It’s just not going the way I want it to right now.”
Tampa hasn’t won a playoff series since 2011, when it made it to the
conference finals before losing to Boston in seven games. Detroit is aiming to
advance to the second round for the second time in three seasons after losing
in five games to the Bruins in the opening round last year.
If the Lightning can avoid elimination tonight they will host Detroit in a
decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.