NEWARK, N.J. -- It was less than three years ago that goaltender Petr Mrazek was toiling in the ECHL, a fifth-round pick who was simply hoping for a chance in the NHL.
After Monday's performance against the New Jersey Devils, Mrazek might have finally claimed a stranglehold on the starting job with the Detroit Red Wings.
The 23-year-old wasn't overly busy but he stopped all 22 shots he faced as the Red Wings clipped the Devils 1-0 at Prudential Center and registered consecutive victories for the first time in almost a month.
In 26 games (23 starts), Mrazek has a 13-8-3 record with a stellar 2.25 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. With incumbent starting goaltender Jimmy Howard (17 starts) having been pulled from his previous two starts, Mrazek is playing his best at the perfect time.
"When Petr's really good in our net," Red Wings center and captain Henrik Zetterberg said, "it makes it easier to win."
The Red Wings (20-13-7) suffocated the Devils (20-15-5) over the final two periods, holding them to 11 shots after allowing 12 in the first period. Mrazek's most difficult save wasn't even a save, according to the goaltender; the official scoresheet has right winger Kyle Palmieri being denied with eight minutes remaining in the third period, but Mrazek said he never touched the puck.
Whether it's 22 official saves or 21 real stops, Mrazek left the ice with his second shutout of the season and gave coach Jeff Blashill all the more reason to go back to him in the next game.
"I wouldn't talk about No. 1 goaltender," Mrazek said. "I just take it game by game. The season's long, so every game's different."
The only goal of the contest was a thing of beauty. Rookie left winger Dylan Larkin froze Devils goaltender Cory Schneider on a breakaway with a hard deke before depositing the puck into a yawning net on his backhand 9:20 into the first period. Just a few seconds earlier, Devils right winger Jordin Tootoo made the Calder Trophy candidate look silly with some unexpectedly deft stickhandling in the neutral zone before having a scoring chance go for naught.
The Red Wings collected the puck, and center Brad Richards hit a streaking Larkin for his rookie-leading 14th goal of the season.
"It was a great pass," Larkin said. "It didn't have much space to land."
As for the move by Tootoo just prior to the goal, Larkin said: "He kind of froze me. I didn't know if he was going to try to barrel through me like he was all game."
The Devils hardly sustained any pressure over the remainder of the game, save for a few chances that missed the net or slid off sticks. They had a chance to tie it on a power play with eight minutes remaining and pulled Schneider for an extra skater with 1:05 to go, but were unable to generate a shot on net during either situation.
The offensive ineptitude resulted in the end of the Devils' three-game win streak.
"They did a good job after the first; Mrazek made some big saves," Schneider said. "After that, he was able to find pucks. He played well. He made the saves he had to make. We had some toward the net that just went wide or were tipped wide and just didn't have eyes."
"You have to give credit to Mrazek," Devils coach John Hynes said. "We had some fantastic chances that didn't go in. I thought he made some big saves."
It wasn't a game littered with excitement or peppered with thrilling moments. The Red Wings will take it, however, even though the fans may not have thought they got their money's worth.
"It was a good road game for us," Zetterberg said. "I don't know how much fun it was for the fans. Once we got that one goal, we just kind of played our game. We play our best third periods when we have a lead. Today, we kept playing for 60 minutes."
NOTES: This was the second of a six-game road trip for the Red Wings. ... RW Tomas Jurco (upper body), LW Drew Miller (jaw), LW Teemu Pulkkinen (shoulder), D Kyle Quincey (ankle), LW Johan Franzen (concussion) were out for the Red Wings. ... Devils LW Mike Cammalleri missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. He is listed as day-to-day. Devils coach John Hynes said Cammalleri was scheduled to see a doctor Monday to determine the severity of the injury. ... Devils LW Patrik Elias (knee) and C Jacob Josefson (lower body) did not play.