Rare win lifts Wings' spirits; Andreas Athanasiou scores twice
Detroit — Victories haven’t come the Red Wings’ way often this season, and especially lately.
So after Saturday’s 2-1 win over the New York Islanders, you could sense a tone of relief and joy coming from the Wings’ locker room.
There just haven’t been many of victories. Or at least, few and far between.
They hadn’t won since March 7 (shootout win over the N.Y. Rangers) and hadn’t won in regulation time since Feb. 14.
The Wings had lost 12 of their last 13 games and fallen to next-to-last in the overall NHL standings. Times have been particularly tough.
So, yes, they enjoyed this one.
“That’s why we play hockey, to win games,” said goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who was a key reason the Wings won, making 41 saves. “When you see all the guys in this room, they’re winners, and every hockey player in this league wants to win.
“When you don’t win, it’s not fun.”
This was fun for a Wings team (25-37-10) that didn’t overwhelm an Islanders (41-23-7) but did all the necessary things to win and received two goals from Andreas Athanasiou for all the offense they needed.
“It’s never easy when you don’t win, the mood in the room and the guys, we’re not playing as confident as we should,” Bernier said. “Tonight we kept it simple, we tried to spend time in their zone and we scored two goals and found a way.”
For Bernier, personally, it was his first victory since Feb. 2, when he shut out Ottawa.
“He was excellent throughout the game,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We gave up way too many chances. We weren’t good enough defensively, especially through the middle of the ice, we have to be better than that.
“We competed, we worked, produced a good number of chances as well, but in the end, Bernie was excellent and that’s why we won.”
The two goals gave Athanasiou 26, one shy of Dylan Larkin — who returned to the lineup after missing five games with a neck strain — for the team lead.
“He’s a dynamic, explosive scorer, and the way he skated tonight, not many people can defend that,” said Larkin of Athanasiou.
Anders Lee scored for the Islanders.
Athanasiou broke a 1-1 tie with his 26th goal midway in the second period.
Danny DeKeyser, with his second assist, slapped a pass to Athanasiou alone at the left post. Athanasiou calmly tapped the puck past goalie Thomas Greiss at 9:57.
“As he (DeKeyser) got the puck, he kind of looked to the net and saw me sneak around the net and saw me all alone,” Athanasiou said. “We made a little bit of eye contact and he put it right on my tape and there was a lot of empty net.”
Athanasiou received some puck luck in the first period to open the scoring.
Appearing content to shoot the puck into the corner, Athanasiou’s pass deflected off an Islanders skate, then glanced off Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock and just past Greiss, making it 1-0, just 2:59 into the game.
“I guess I’ll take those any day, for sure,” Athanasiou said.