By @SKubus –
DETROIT – Following an ugly 5-1 thumping at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night, the Red Wings responded as well as anyone could’ve hoped Saturday afternoon.
Led by a bounce-back, 22-save performance by Petr Mrazek between the pipes, Detroit topped the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Islanders by a 4-1 final. Tomas Tatar, Brendan Smith, Jonathan Ericsson and Gustav Nyquist each scored for the Red Wings, who improve to 29-12-9 on the season. Detroit has not lost back-to-back games in regulation this season.
“It shows that we’re resilient,” Smith said. “It’s a compliment to our veterans, who come in and get us ready for the next game if we maybe had not our best effort the night before, so you have to give our leaders that… I think it just shows the maturity of some of the young guys, and it’s been good for us.”
Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said he was especially impressed by Mrazek’s resilience after his poor outing in Tampa.
“You’ve got to have a real short memory in this league and as a goaltender, it doesn’t matter, it’s the next save,” Babcock said. “He’s been yanked now twice, and he’s responded the next night. I really like that, so he’s still got to develop as a goaltender. He’s got to work on his skill set, but I think his mind is really good.”
Early in the game, with Detroit’s top-ranked powerplay going to work against the Isles’ 29th-ranked penalty kill, it didn’t take long for the Red Wings to strike.
A mere 12 seconds into the game’s first man-advantage with New York’s Mikhail Grabovski in the box for goalie interference, Tatar popped home his 22nd of the season as he walked down the left side of the Isles’ zone and roofed a shot over Isles goaltender Chad Johnson with Darren Helm screening in front to give Detroit the 1-0 lead on its first shot of the game. Pavel Datsyuk and Danny DeKeyser drew assists on the tally.
“[Helm] made a really good screen,” Tatar said. “It was like the whole unit worked. Those guys, [DeKeyser] keep the puck in, Pav passed to me, Helm goes in front, so it was a whole unit work, and I was kind of afraid I was going to hit him.”
The Red Wings took back-to-back penalties in the second period, one of which was for too-many men on the ice, but Mrazek and company kept the Isles at bay, once again proving why its penalty kill has been in the league’s top-10 this season.
With 46 seconds remaining in the second stanza, Tomas Jurco fed Smith and he cranked home a one-timer from the top of the left circle high over the far, glove side of Johnson. His third of the season extended Detroit’s lead to two after 40 minutes.
The Red Wings’ penalty trouble caught up to them early in the third period, though. On the Islanders’ fourth powerplay of the afternoon, defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky cut Detroit’s lead to one, as he wired a wrister high over Mrazek at 4:24 to make it a 2-1 game.
At 9:21, Ericsson potted his third of the season to give him a career-high four-game point streak, as his point shot snuck through traffic and beat Johnson. Nyquist then added his 20th of the season, and 12th on the powerplay, at 13:08 to extend the lead to 4-1 after he kicked a rebound up to his stick and buried it.
“I think we’ve just been talking about trying to create more offense with the team,” Ericsson said of his production from the blue line. “And one way of doing that, I guess every team is so compressed down low, usually the tops are open, but with that said, the d-men, when they get the puck, they have to make sure they get the pucks though, and we haven’t always done that, but I think we’ve been doing a better job of that lately.”
The Islanders made a late push in the final minute, but all for naught, as the Red Wings held on to knock off the Metropolitan Division leader.
“We’re off to a good start, there’s lots of hockey left,” Babcock said. “We’ve got a road trip coming up. We’re happy for today. The one thing about it is you get to enjoy your Super Bowl Sunday and get ready for the next one.”