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St. Louis, MO (WQLR) – For a team that had been struggling to get the puck in the net, the Wings were able to find scoring from unusual sources on Thursday night. After nine games, the members of the third and fourth lines had totaled zero points combined. Against the Blues, they combined for eight, as the Wings dominated St. Louis from start to finish, en route to a 5-1 victory at the Scottrade Center.
The scoring outburst from the bottom two lines was impressive but the story of the game was centered around a kid who can’t even legally drink to celebrate his first career NHL victory. Making his first start after being called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins, Petr Mzarek made 26 saves on 27 shots and the only goal he allowed came while the wings were defending a Blues’ power play.
“I wasn’t nervous and I enjoyed every minute of it but the two points are the most important thing today,” Mzarek said. “Every save was great because it’s the NHL, it was my first game and it was great.”
Mzarek, who turns 21 on Valentine’s Day, was making the start for Jimmy Howard, who had started all nine of the Wings games this season. In 25 games at Grand Rapids this season, Mrazek went 16-7-1 with a 2.26 GAA and .916 save percentage while earning a spot in the AHL All-Star Game.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock knew his goalie was confident heading into the game, but to predict a performance like this was nothing anyone could have seen coming.
“He was solid, he didn’t give up chances because they were coming off him,” Babcock said. “To me he was really composed and I thought he was excellent for us.”
Dan Cleary started the scoring for the Wings, tallying his first goal of the season at the 14:46 mark of the opening period. After gathering his own rebound, Cleary buried the puck in the back of the net. Tomas Tatar and Justin Abdelkader assisted on the goal, their first points on the season
Defenseman Jakub Kindl's first goal of the season gave the Wings a two goal lead. His shot from the blue line was deflected off a Blues defender and past Brian Elliot with 8:10 remaining in the opening frame.
The Blues cut the lead in half at 2-1 with less than five minutes left in the second period with a power play goal. The Wings were penalized for too many men on the ice, and Alex Pietrangelo found a wide open net, with 25 seconds remaining on the penalty.
Less than two minutes later the Wings regained a two goal advantage when Cory Emmerton scored his first goal of the season. Damian Brunner added another goal 91 seconds later, his fifth of the season.
In the third period, the game started to get physical between the Central Division foes. Johan Franzen received a 5 minute major game misconduct penalty for spearing after being hit from behind by David Perron. Perron was sent to the penalty box for two minutes as well for boarding. During the 4-on-4, Valtteri Filppula out raced the Blues defense to a puck that had been tipped out of the zone. After breaking away from the defense, Filppula found the top shelf past Elliot, clinching the 5-1 victory for Detroit.
This was the second time the Wings had beaten the Blues in the last seven days, topping St. Louis last Friday 5-3 at the Joe. The win also ended a two game losing streak for Detroit, and according to Babcock, something the Wings couldn’t afford to allow to reach three games with the lockout shortened season.
“We were focused because we need wins. We dropped two in a row, and we talked a lot about it. We had some energy and we played and competed hard and that’s what you have to do to win. All teams are going to go through some tough times, you just want them to be as short as possible and you want to get back at. It was a great win for our team but we have another big weekend here, so let’s get back and get refreshed and get ready to go.”
The only worry the Wings had on Thursday was during the third period when Mrazek had an injury scare. He appeared hurt as he struggled to get back up on his skates. However, he should be ok.
“Guy stepped on the back of my leg and I might be cut, but I think it’s not that bad,” Mrazek said after the game.
If Mrazek is ok, opposing Western Conference foes will have a lot to worry about, as Mrazek is gleaming with confidence and wants to prove that his first game is no fluke.
“I’m feeling great. It’s the first win but I hope it’ll be more than one.”