‘I like that open ice’: Athanasiou nets Wings’ OT winner

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Detroit Red Wings center Andreas Athanasiou scores on Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk in overtime Sunday.

Detroit – The Red Wings beat another of the top teams in the NHL Sunday, besting the Wild 3-2 in overtime on a breakaway goal by Andreas Athanasiou.

It was Athanasiou’s 17th goal of the season. He scored after Tomas Tatar tied the tightly-competed game at two, 55 seconds into the third period, on yet another play made by the captain, Henrik Zetterberg.

As is often the case playing three-on-three in overtime, Athanasiou’s breakaway came immediately after a big stop in the Red Wings’ end.

“I saw them load up for a shot, and Howie made a big save there and played it nicely,” Athanasiou said of Jimmy Howard, who won his ninth game of the season, despite missing two-and-a-half months and some of the weakest goal support in the NHL.

BOX SCORE: Red Wings 3, Wild 2 (OT)

“And Gus made a good pass,” the 22-year-old forward said.

Gustav Nyquist found the speeding Athanasiou for his second assist of the game and 30th of the season, second on the team.

Athanasiou flew in past the blue line all alone, brought goalie Devan Dubnyk flat on his belly with a deke and put the puck into a nearly open net.

“I definitely like that open ice,” Athanasiou said, of a clean scoring opportunity on the three-on-three in overtime. “It definitely feels good to see all that open area and to have a chance to win it.”

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Athanasiou’s 17th goal in the 59th game of his second season – he has 26 goals in 95 career games – puts him second on the team in goals behind Tatar.

Tatar scored his 22nd goal of the season after Zetterberg scooped the puck of the sideboards and fed Nyquist. Back-handed and falling, Nyquist got it to Tatar high in the slot.

It was Zetterberg’s team-leading 46th assist and 62nd point.

“It was a power-play goal that gave us a lift, for sure, before we continued the game,” Tatar said.

The Wings entered play with the second-worst power play in the NHL at 13.7 percent, despite some recent improvement.

“These specialty teams are deciding games, and our PK was outstanding,” Tatar said of the penalty killing unit that was two-for-two, albeit against the Wild’s power play that entered the game 28th in the league on the road.

“We just carried the power-play (goal) over for the rest of the game.”

It was Tatar’s 10th goal in 17 games after a cold start.

He now has at least 20 goals in the last four seasons, including a career-high 29 in 2014-15.

The Wild entered the game as one of five teams that clinched a playoff spot, with 94 points, good for sixth in the NHL.

The Red Wings, who now have 72 points in 74 games, defeated the Capitals, Penguins, Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild in the past five weeks, while losing to the Avalanche and Sabres.

“Fiercely competitive, both sides,” Jeff Blashill said of the Sunday matinee game.

“I thought the game was really hard, both ways.

“You know, we weren’t perfect. We made a few mistakes. But I thought our competitiveness level was outstanding.”

Indeed, the Red Wings had 13 giveaways in the game, an unusually sloppy standard for them, in a second consecutive season branded by uncharacteristically ragged play.

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Three of the giveaways were by the Wings’ rookie defenseman Nick Jensen, and three by Tatar.

The Wings also blocked 15 shots, including three by the defenseman Danny DeKeyser and two by forward Drew Miller.

The first two goals for the Wild came with relative ease, after mistakes by the Red Wings.

With both DeKeyser and Jensen caught up ice and out of position in the first period, Eric Staal, the Wild’s leading goal scorer, took advantage of the situation.

Staal picked up speed and the puck at about the Wings blue line and catapulted in on a breakaway, with Frans Nielsen trying desperately on the back-check. But Staal’s quick, crisp wrist shot from about 30 feet beat Howard, at 9:43.

Zach Parise collected his 22nd assist on the season and Jonas Brodin his 19th.

Then, late in the second period, with play fairly close but the Wild outshooting the Wings 17-12, defenseman Nate Prosser got his first goal of the season on a wrist shot from 65 feet.

About halfway to the net, in an apparent attempt to bat the chest-high shot down, Dylan Larkin took a swat at it.

Larkin deflected the shot past Howard instead.

It was Prosser’s first goal since Feb. 14, 2015.

Between those two Wild goals, the Red Wings managed to even the score at one, just before the end of the first period.

Nielsen won a draw to Dubnyk’s right, and drew the puck back to Niklas Kronwall, who then fed Mike Green to his left.

Green’s 58-foot wrist shot managed to squeak through several bodies on the way to the goal, and in behind the drastically screened Dubnyk.

Green now has 12 goals and 21 assists for 32 points in 63 games.