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Mrazek shines in NHL debut as Red Wings rout Blues

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- Petr Mrazek made certain he got an early present for his 21st birthday -- the puck from his first victory as an NHL goalie.

"It's unbelievable, it's like a dream," Mrazek said. "When you are a kid you are always thinking about the NHL Now it's happened so I am so happy. I got the puck, and I will keep it forever."

Mrazek, who will turn 21 on Feb. 14, made his NHL debut for the Detroit Red Wings Thursday night and stopped 26 of 27 shots and got plenty of offensive support from his teammates in posting a 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues.

Mrazek was called up from the Red Wings' AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, Mich., to make the start in place of regular goalie Jimmy Howard, who had played all of Detroit's first nine games this season. The team's two other backup goalies are both out with injuries.

A native of the Czech Republic who was the Red Wings' fifth-round pick in the 2010 entry draft, Mrazek earned the praise of his coach and teammates with his efforts, despite knowing he likely will be headed back to the minor leagues in the next few days.

"I thought he played well," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "He really handles the puck well. It makes it easy for the D (defense) so you play in your zone less because he's so good at it. The thing I liked about the kid was that he didn't generate second chances for them. The pick wasn't coming off. He was under control.

"Good for the kid. It's not an easy league to play in and St. Louis is a real good team."

Neither Babcock nor Mrazek's teammates were surprised that he was not nervous before or during the game.

"He's not like that," Babcock said. "I don't know why but he just thinks he's good. There's nothing wrong with that."

Added defenseman Niklas Kronwell, "He never really panicked. I thought he was just square to the puck all night. He kept control of the rebounds and looked really good. St. Louis is one of the best teams in the league and for him to come in and play like that, I was really happy for him."

The only goal Mrazek allowed was a power-play goal from Alex Pietrangelo in the second period, which temporarily cut the Detroit lead to 2-1.

"I was real excited for my first game," Mrazek said. "I tried to stop what I could. I enjoyed every minute on the ice. The guys were outstanding today blocking lots of shots and helped me so much."

After Pietrangelo's goal, Mrazek's teammates responded with goals by Cory Emmerton and Damien Brunner 91 seconds apart in the final 2:27 of the period to increase the lead to 4-1.

Valtteri Filppula scored the final Detroit goal on a breakaway in the third period.

Detroit, which had scored only three first-period goals in the first nine games of the season, scored twice in the opening period. Dan Cleary and Jakub Kindl both scored their first goals of the season to reduce the pressure on Mrazek.

It was the third game in a row the Blues fell behind 2-0 to start a game, and St. Louis has dropped each of those games.

The Blues have now lost more than two games in a row for the first time since Ken Hitchcock took over as the team's coach early in the 2011-2012 season.

"We just got away from our game," Pietrangelo said. "If you get behind every single game and try to play comeback hockey, it's just not going to work. I thought we did some good things in the first period. It was a step forward from the Nashville game, then we let it get away from us."

NOTES: The game was the 1,000th of Wade Redden's NHL career but only his sixth game with the Blues. He spent the first 11 years of his career with the Ottawa Senators before playing two years with the New York Rangers. Redden is the 31st active player in the league to reach that milestone. ... The Blues came into the game ranked 24th in the league in penalty-kill percentage at 73.7 percent, having allowed 10 power-play goals in their first nine games. St. Louis killed off Detroit's lone power play Thursday. ... The Blues went 1-for-3 on the power play.... The game was the third of the season between the two rivals, who will play only twice more this season, both times in Detroit.
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