Petr Mrazek put on one of the most magical performances in-goal that you will ever see, in the Detroit Red Wings’ 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night. The Hurricanes gave their home-opening sellout crowd their money’s worth, playing with fierce intensity and aggression from the very first faceoff. 18,949 excited fans came out to support the hometown ‘Canes and were treated to a fabulous hockey contest.
The Red Wings were playing their second game in as many nights, and the adage about tired legs was never a factor in the ultimate outcome of the game. But, the combination of Carolina’s zeal and relentless attacking, fended off time and again by Mrazek, made this game one to remember. Unfortunately for the home crowd, the result is one that they’d rather forget.
The Hurricanes have had a tendency to “not start on time” over the past few seasons. That was not the case against Detroit as they came out hard and fast and firing at Mrazek from all over the ice. After the first period the ‘Canes had 18 shots on goal to the Wings’ 2. 18-2, an unbelievable disparity that should have had Carolina on the scoreboard at least once. But, Mrazek was steady and solid, even when facing a five-on-three power play. At the end of the first it was 0-0, and the young goalie was undaunted.
The second period saw the Wings draw first blood with the Hurricanes finally solving Mrazek two times. But, the shots on goal differential continued to be weighted heavily to the ‘Canes at 34-8. To be ahead 2-1 at the end of the second was a relief for the Hurricanes, albeit one that was short-lived.
Detroit went into the locker room realizing that their guy Mrazek was playing a brilliant game, and that they were far from being beaten. Yes, he had given up two goals, but he had blocked 32 shots. One by Victor Rask was particularly exciting for the Hurricanes, as Noah Hanifin notched his first NHL assist on the play.
Hanifin played exceptionally well throughout the entire game. He is the real deal, a legitimate defenseman that should figure in very nicely with the ‘Canes long-term rebuilding success. His puck handling, passing and even stealing from opponents was magnificent, something that even the sour result of the game cannot obscure for Hurricanes fans.
Ultimately, although down 2-1, the Wings had life and it showed in the third period.
With Mrazek confident and his teammates optimistic, the momentum shifted away from the home team and grew with each minute for Detroit. Cam Ward gave up three goals in the third period, although he received no criticism after the game. Coach Bill Peters blamed an overall breakdown on the defensive side for the Detroit goals. Peters said,
“We broke down in the D-zone, obviously. The one was an unassisted goal, and the other was a deflection, probably a little too much time. We could have been a little firmer on the puck.”
Detroit’s Teemu Pulkkinen scored two goals in a span of just under two minutes. The momentum had clearly shifted and a frustrated ‘Canes team kept banging away and Mrazek kept standing tall.
In the end, Ward had 15 saves on 19 shots faced, compared with Mrazek’s 44 saves on 47 shots faced. Granted not all of the Hurricanes’ shots were in Mrazek’s face requiring superhuman feats to save, but Mrazek had the magic in Raleigh, and the Wings left with the 4-3 win.
The Hurricanes are now 0-2 on the season. They face the Florida Panthers on Tuesday before a lengthy road trip for the bulk of their remaining October schedule. When they face the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday. the Red Wings have the luxury of deciding between Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek, both 1-0. In my opinion, Peters will very likely go with Eddie Lack against the Panthers. Ward is 0-2 and it may be time to see what Lack can bring to the ice. ‘Canes fans would love for it to be some of the Mrazek magic.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.