Red Wings shut out Lightning, take lead in series
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith (2) and Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) skate to control the puck during the first period in game five of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
No stunning comeback for the Tampa Bay Lightning this time.
As such, it’s the Detroit Red Wings who are on the verge of moving on to the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Wings got 28 saves from Petr Mrazek in Game 5 on Saturday night at Amalie Arena to beat the Lightning 4-0.
Never mind that Tampa was picked by some to emerge from the Eastern Conference and go to the Cup final; it now must win two games just to escape the first round.
Enjoying their 24th consecutive playoff appearance, the Wings lead the best-of-seven 3-2 and would wrap it up with a Game 6 win at Joe Louis Arena on Monday.
“The fourth win is always the tough one, everyone knows that,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “But if we keep playing like we are, we are going to have a good chance.
“It’s always great to play playoff hockey at home and having a chance to get the fourth win in a series at home, you can’t beat that.”
Though few NHL types picked the Wings to win the series, it’s not your typical grand upset in the making. Tampa finished with 50 wins and 108 points during the regular season, both franchise records, while the Wings had 43 victories and 100 points.
If the Wings advance, that sound you hear will be grumbling impatience coming from the teams in the NHL that have a head-coaching vacancy. The longer the Wings play, the longer it is that coach Mike Babcock’s future will be up in the air, and the longer it will be that some teams can get the position settled.
Mrazek, who had not started an NHL playoff game before this spring, has two shutouts and has been a backbone for a Detroit team that has been improving for the past three games.
The victory marked a terrific rebound for a Wings team that lost in such a tough manner two days earlier, when they blew a two-goal lead late in Game 4 and lost in overtime. That the Wings were able to forget about the stunning loss speaks not only to the veteran experience but also Babcock’s guidance.
There was Babcock putting it in easy-to-understand terms after the game.
“We have to get our mind right and get ready for the next game,” Babcock said. “No team has been able to win two games in a row in this series. You have to keep getting better. We feel good about our team and we are thankful we are going home.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper, on the other hand, had less than 48 hours to figure out how to get his players scoring. The Lightning, which scored an NHL-high 262 goals in the regular season, have not scored in eight of the past nine full periods.
At the centre of the drought is captain Steven Stamkos, who has two assists in the series.
“It’s pretty tough to win when the goal of the game is to score and you are not scoring,” Cooper, a bit agitated, said. “We have to find a way.
“We can’t sit here and throw it all on Stammer. He does not play the whole game, so there are lots of other guys out there that we need to score. It’s not on him. It’s on all of us.”
Riley Sheahan, Drew Miller, Pavel Datsyuk and Danny DeKeyser (into an empty net) scored for the Wings. In one stretch that started in the first period and dragged into the second, the Lightning went more than 20 minutes without a shot on goal.
“I want to produce,” Stamkos said. “It’s not for a lack of effort. I’m working my ass off out there.
“No one is feeling sorry for us or myself. If I didn’t think I was competing, I would be pissed at myself.
“I think anyone who has been around sports realizes there is not much that needs to be said when your backs are against the wall. You have no choice but to win. “The belief is there. We just have to go out and prove to ourselves that we are not ready to quit.”
MRAZEK’S THE MAN
Just win, baby.
That’s the outlook of Detroit Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek, who recorded his second shutout of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs with a 28-save performance against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It’s nice to get a shutout but it doesn’t matter in the playoffs if you have a shutout or if you let in three or four goals and win,” Mrazek said after the 4-0 Wings win on Saturday. “That’s what is most important. It’s a new game on Monday (for Game 6) and this is over.”
Earlier Saturday, Wings coach Mike Babcock reminded Mrazek to enjoy this experience.
“We talked about it and he said it’s a fun time of year,” Mrazek said. “When it’s the playoffs you don’t want to go home after four losses and go home sad and wait for next year.”