Double-A powers Wings in SO win, Philly hex ends

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News


Andreas Athanasiou

Philadephia —  Many fans have been pining for more ice time for Andreas Athanasiou since last season.

He might get a lot more now.

After scoring the tying goal in the third period and the winner in the shootout while playing what his coach Jeff Blashill described as a complete game, what could possibly limit his time on ice now?

One of the fastest skaters in franchise history demonstrated, again, a considerable set of hands, leading the Red Wings to a 3-2 shootout victory Tuesday, their first win in Philadelphia in 19 years.

BOX SCORE: Red Wings 3, Flyers 2 (SO)

And, what is considerably more important, it broke a five-game winless streak and the Wings improved to 7-6-1.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve been standing here talking to you guys after a game telling you that he is good,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said of the 22-year-old Athanasiou. “It’s amazing what he does with the minutes he gets.

“Now, with a little more minutes, he keeps delivering. No one is really surprised in here,” Zetterberg said, referring to the dressing room. “And, you know, I’m glad we have him.”

Blashill gave Athanasiou perhaps more praise than he ever has after a game. This time, he liked the speedster’s engagement all over the ice, and continuous impact on the game.

It is for what Blashill has always said he is looking for in order to give Athanasiou more ice time.

“Yeah, I thought he did a good job staying on it all night,” Blashill said. “I thought he was engaged all night. I thought he was winning puck battles all night.

“When he is that, he is a very, very talented player. When he competes at that high level, this is what you get out of him. He’s an excellent player that can break a game open out of nothing.”

Athanasiou’s big night nearly eclipsed Jimmy Howard’s terrific performance.

Strong all night, as he has been all season, Howard kept the Red Wings in it against a Flyers team whose primary strength is big, skilled forwards who can score.

He made several outstanding saves. But a few of his best moments were facing Claude Giroux, the Flyers’s talented leading scorer, face-to-face, nearly alone.

In regulation, in overtime and in the shootout, Giroux skated in on Howard and the 10-year veteran slammed the door each time.

“It feels good,” said Howard, who was an All-Star two seasons ago before a groin injury and inconsistency helped Petr Mrazek seize the top goaltending slot.

“That’s probably our most complete game in a while, and we did a good job even when they scored in the third period. I thought the next shift, we responded really well.”

The Wings will like to improve on a couple of issues, however: Two less-than-vigorous starts to periods, the first and third.
It was during both lapses that the Flyers scored.

Time with Griffins gave Blashill heads-up on Bertuzzi

They built a 4-1 shot advantage at the start of the game and Giroux scored his fourth goal of the young season at 6:48, just 14 seconds into a power play.

It looked like the Flyers' potent offense might dominate, as the Red Wings chased the play and failed to establish much possession, early on.
But then Zetterberg, who played an outstanding game, turned the tide.

He swept the puck away from a Flyers’ player deep in the Philadelphia zone and an instant before goalie Steve Mason could smother it in the crease, Zetterberg got his stick on it first.

Knocking the puck behind the net, he retrieved it, stopped, froze the defense and then fed Tomas Tatar perfectly to Mason’s right, at the crease. Point blank, Tatar tallied his second goal of the season, at 8:42.

In the second period, after some rough play around Howard on an earlier shift, Jonathan Ericsson and Wayne Simmonds squared-off, and Simmonds landed a big left hand, knocking down the Wings defenseman.

It turned the game in a far more physical direction, as the players began delivering body checks.

Howard was sharp.

He stoned Michael Raffl from close range, to keep the game tied.

The Wings continued to possess the puck and play in the offensive zone more than in recent games, compiling 19-14 shot advantage by the end of the period.

But Mason, who got his first start in six games amid goaltending woes in Philadelphia, kept them from grabbing the lead.

In the third period, the Red Wings lost a little bit of the fore-check that helped them control so much of the action in the first two periods. It resulted in less possession and, eventually, chasing the puck around in their own zone.

With players out far too long on a shift, Jakub Voracek was able to beat Brendan Smith to a puck and feed Sean Couturier, who scored his fourth goal of the season, at 6:51.

But then Athanasiou went to work.

Taking a nice lead pass from Danny DeKeyser, he ignited his elevated speed, split the Flyers’ defense and beat Mason high, just under the crossbar.

“I was coming through the middle with speed, and `D.K.’ made a great pass to me," Athanasiou said. "I saw a little bit of space between those two `D’ and thought I could make it. And fortunately enough, I got through.”

With that speed, Athanasiou may be making it and getting through for a long time in a Red Wings’ uniform.

It was his fourth goal of the season, and fourth career goal against the Flyers in four games.

“Obviously, we’ve given up some leads, and the last time in this building (Wednesday) we did,” Blashill said. “So, for us to come back and tie the game there was a good statement.

“Great goal by Double-A.”

In the shootout, when Athanasiou skated in on Mason and made no mistake.

“It’s definitely a good feeling to get out of that losing slump there, and get on the right track,” he said.

Blashill thought so, too.

“As we went into overtime,” he said, “I thought it was important for us to get two points just because I thought we’d played pretty good game.

“I thought we played pretty good game on the road, and so you want to be rewarded.

“We’ve played some games where it’s kind of gone the other way. So, it was good for us to get two points tonight.”

gregg.krupa@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @greggkrupa