Wings keep focus in 3rd after intermission delay

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Detroit —  The signs of something amiss were unmistakable.

With the Red Wings ahead 4-0 and the second intermission about to end, attendants with shovels, buckets and other helpful ice-crafting utensils lingered in the Wings zone on the west end of Joe Louis Arena.

They looked down at a long gash in the ice.

What the heck?

Toronto, we have a problem.

When a Zamboni machine gathered up one of the anchoring posts for the net and pressed it into the ice from the crease out past what was to be the Red Wings’ blue line, the danger to players was clear.

It took a good half-hour to resolve.

It almost did not happen.

There was some talk, early in the delay, about continuing the game another day, coach Jeff Blashill said.

Ice issue forces delay to start of 3rd of Wings game

But in consultation with NHL officials in Toronto, and lot of solid work by Al Sobotka and his crew, the long gouge was repaired well enough to play.

It was decided the teams would split the third period, defending both goals, just to make sure any advantage was evenly shared.

But after a 36-minute delay, adding up to a 56-minute intermission, the Red Wings kept their four-goal lead — increasing it to five for a couple of minutes, on Dylan Larkin’s 18th goal of the season.

“It was a tough situation, but it’s the reality,” Blashill said. “Things happen. We couldn’t play it, obviously, until it was safe for the players.

“I thought the refs did a great job of involving (John) Tavares and (Henrik) Zetterberg, and until the players felt like it was a safe situation, we weren’t going to play it.

“But I also think on the other side of it, we were going to wait as long as we had to wait to get this in. You don’t want to go back and to have to play that period later on.”

Players said they knew little more than the fans as the process continued.

Some pedaled bikes. Some simply relaxed.

Many watched television.

Mrazek stands tall

With a five-goal lead early in the third period that became a 5-1 win, Petr Mrazek’s ministrations may not have seemed quite as critical as in some of the Red Wings many one-goal games, this season.

But it was important.

The Islanders played well throughout the opening minutes, building a 9-2 shot advantage. But Tomas Jurco scored on the Wings' third shot to get things going offensively.

Mrazek held the fort, and made some big saves later in the game, too.

“We were talking about we have to score some goals, and we did a good job today,” said Mrazek, whose calm demeanor seems constant.

“We just have to be focused. It doesn’t matter if it’s a four-nothing game, or one-nothing. You have to keep going, keeping battling and don’t let in any goals.”

He agreed that the long delay set up a more difficult challenge, in the third period. But an early goal at 2:56 by Larkin gave his goalie a five-goal lead.

“That was a tough moment for us, but a big goal by Larks at the beginning of the third period.”

Assessing Athanasiou

Rookie Andreas Athanasiou played a strong game, picking up his first assist of the season to go with one goal in his seven games with the parent club.

He played 9 minutes, 48 seconds, including 49 seconds on the penalty kill.

Blashill approved, but wants to see even better play from the 21 year-old speedster.

“You know, I thought he did a pretty good job,” said Blashill, who coached Athanasiou in Grand Rapids for two seasons. “I actually think he’s better than he played tonight.

“I think there’s more there.

“I thought he got the puck a few times in the neutral zone with space, and didn’t skate. So, he and I will talk about that.

“He’s got to be a guy who drives that speed and our ability to put the other teams on their heels.”

But Athanasiou’s assist on Tomas Tatar’s goal, the fourth for the Wings, “was a great play by him,” Blashill said.

And the coach liked Athanasiou’s play on the penalty kill.