Athanasiou shows his talent, not just on winning goal

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Andreas Athanasiou – AGE: 21: CONTRACT: through 2017, $933,333. COMMENT: Excited fans with his speed and ability to finish, but needs to round out the rest of his game. VERDICT: Likely staying.

Detroit — Andreas Athanasiou did not get much more playing time Sunday.

But, as usual, he made the most of it.

Athanasiou’s first career playoff goal was the winner in the Red Wings’ 2-0 victory over the Lightning Sunday, pulling them back into their Eastern Conference series.

“I think coming into this, with what was at stake here and obviously coming back into our home arena, we wanted to come out strong and definitely use the crowd’s momentum and just play the full 60,” said the 21-year-old forward, who scored on a shot from the sideboards that went through the short side on Lightning goalie Ben Bishop at 12:42 of the second period.

He said the goal resulted from a quick pass from Tomas Tatar to Joakim Andersson, who made a fine play.

“Andy made a helluva move on the D there, and it almost went in,” Athanasiou said. “And then, me and Andy kind of had a little criss-cross there and I kind of used him as a little bit of a pick and then the puck just popped out and I kind of one-timed it.”

His talent is often evident, but it may have been a little tougher to discern on the goal.

Wings claw back into series with shutout victory

“It was the old knuckle puck,” he said. “You never know where it’s going to go.”

But Athanasiou’s talent was obvious later in the game when, fed with the puck, he stymied defenders by pirouetting and firing. After the complete 360-degree turn, the puck nearly went in.

Coach Jeff Blashill said he thought it was an amazing play.

“That spin move was nice, real nice. If that would have went in, it would have been unreal.”

“We pulled him up for the specific purpose that he’s got great speed,” Blashill said. “He can back you off. And he’s a guy who seems to be able to handle less minutes and still have an impact. Most players can’t do that.

“He’s good defensively. It’s really just about his overall impact on the game. Can he have a great impact?

“And, again, when he wants to own the moment, he’s great.

“He did a great job with the role he was given, and I expect him to continue to do the job with the role he’s given.”