TAMPA — Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour didn’t know what to expect when he started goalie Petr Mrazek in Game 3 against the Lightning on Thursday in place of Calder Trophy finalist Alex Nedeljkovic.
The change had less to do with Nedeljkovic’s performance in the first two games of the second-round playoff series, both Carolina losses, than with giving the rookie some rest after he had started the Hurricanes’ first eight playoff games.
The adjustment paid off in a 3-2 overtime win that cut the Lightning’s series lead to 2-1.
“I just tried to read the play, read the game well,” Mrazek said. “That was the key.”
Mrazek, who hadn’t played since May 10 in Nashville, was the fifth goaltender the Lightning faced this postseason after facing seeing three against the Panthers in the opening round.
Mrazek had 35 saves, including 14 in the third period and overtime. He did not allow a goal while facing 10 shots in a scoreless first period. The two he allowed came on power plays in the second.
Despite making his first start in nearly a month, Mrazek — in his ninth NHL season and a veteran of 27 playoff starts — said he didn’t feel pressured.
“It’s fun to play, especially in the playoffs,” Mrazek said. “Those moments are forever.”
Brind’Amour was pleased with Mrazek’s play.
“He had no chance on those (power-play) goals at all,” he said. “(The Lightning) aren’t going to miss those. But he was good. He’s a battler.”
Mrazek improved his record against the Lightning this season to 2-0-0, also winning Jan. 28 in Raleigh. The win boosted the 29-year-old’s career postseason record to 12-14.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said the goalie change didn’t faze his team.
“We’ve seen Mrazek for years,” Cooper said. “He’s very familiar with this building, playing us in the playoffs from his days in Detroit (the Red Wings lost to the Lightning in the first round in 2015 and 2016 ), and so we’ve got a good book on him. He was rested, so he had a pretty good game.”
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Savard back at practice
Lightning defenseman David Savard skated in Friday’s optional practice. Savard hasn’t played since the first-round series finale against Florida on May 26 and missed the first three games of the Carolina series with an upper-body injury. Cooper said Savard was “getting closer” to returning to the lineup.
Contact Mari Faiello at email@example.com. Follow @faiello_mari.
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