The Detroit Red Wings earned the right to feel better about themselves, their confidence boosted as they faced down a potent opponent.
It wasn’t just that the Wings defeated the Winnipeg Jets, 5-1, Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena, it was how it was done. Guys won puck battles. Played as five-man units. Didn’t fret when Patrik Laine made it 2-1. Killed five of six penalties against the second-ranked power play in the NHL.
“Coming back from a game like the last one was big here at home for us,” Gustav Nyquist said after scoring twice and setting up Justin Abdelkader’s goal that made it 1-0. “t feels good right now, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Darren Helm and David Booth scored in the third period, and Jimmy Howard had some highlight saves among 25 total. It was, as Helm put it, a matter of the Wings wanting to “respond the right away” after Saturday’s 10-1 humiliation in Montreal, which left the Wings on a seven-game skid. The Jets only got three shots in the first period.
“We weren’t playing with passion the last couple games and we wanted to play with more intensity and show that we belong out there,” Helm said. “That was a great team we played. We knew it was going to be hard. They can score in a lot of different areas. We wanted to keep the pressure on. I thought we did a good job of keep pushing forward when things got a little difficult.”
The Jets converted 22 seconds into a 5-on-3, grabbing momentum in the second period. After failing to respond to such events last week, the Wings looked determined to do better.
“I think that was the key to the game right there,” Booth said. “They could have gotten another quick one, and then who knows? But keeping your composure, and Howie coming up with big saves or big blocks by our guys, goes a long way.”
Coach Jeff Blashill said the way the Wings responded to Laine’s goal was critical.
“Confidence is a huge factor that is so hard to put a finger on and is so hard to understand,” he said. “The two things that probably don’t get talked about enough are confidence and momentum. They scored to get a little momentum; we didn’t give them another one. That was huge.
“They pushed hard in the third, and we were able to get that third goal, it was a big one for us. We’ve got to go to work tomorrow, we are going to practice, we have to get to work and get better.”
Discipline was an issue, although one of the penalties was a tripping call on Howard, something rarely seen — his stick had come out as he’d made a save. The power play needs more bearing down — it squandered 2:59 worth of 5-on-3 play and 5:41 of 5-on-4 play. Nyquist’s first goal did come seven seconds after overlapping power plays in the first period. That helped.
“You get that long 5-on-3 and it can be easy to deflate you for sure,” Blashill said. “We had lots of chances, but to score right there was huge. Otherwise it’s a psychological warfare on yourself a little bit.”
The Jets are one of the top teams in the NHL; another comes to town Saturday, when the Wings host the St. Louis Blues. The Wings can, at least, go into that game with a fresh reminder their colors are better than what they showed against Montreal.