Slump busters: Red Wings cool Jets, end 7-game skid
Detroit — The Red Wings talked for two days about the need to respond after playing such unacceptable hockey the last two games.
Tuesday, in a game against arguably the best team in the Western Conference, the Red Wings answered their own challenge.
They soundly defeated Winnipeg 5-1, ending a seven-game winless streak and winning their first game since Nov. 17.
After being humiliated Saturday in Montreal (a 10-1 loss), rumors swirling about the futures of general manager Ken Holland and coach Jeff Blashill, and maybe the need for some sort of trade to shake up the roster, the Red Wings came out and played a crisp, cohesive game.
BOX SCORE: Red Wings 5, Jets 1
“We are definitely better than what we’ve showed lately,” said defenseman Danny DeKeyser Monday, 48 hours after the embarrassment in Montreal. “We have tons of great players in this room. We just have to come together and play together as a team.
“Sometimes you have to go out there and not think and just play. That’s the biggest thing for us – just go out there and play hockey.”
That the Red Wings (11-12-5, 27 points) did, keeping the dangerous Jets (17-7-4, 38 points) grounded most of the evening.
Justin Abdelkader, Gustav Nyquist, Jonathan Ericsson, Darren Helm and David Booth scored for the Red Wings, while goaltender Jimmy Howard stopped 25 shots.
Ericsson, Helm and Booth scored 5 minutes 45 seconds apart – Ericsson beginning the barrage at 4:55 – to break open what had been a slim 2-1 Red Wings lead.
Patrik Laine (power play) had the Jets’ goal.
After five awful periods against Montreal dating back to the last two games, the Red Wings needed a good start.
They definitely put together one in the opening 20 minutes Tuesday, thoroughly outplaying Winnipeg.
The Red Wings outshot the Jets 16-3 in the first period — the least the Red Wings have allowed in a period this season.
And this against a Winnipeg team that came in leading the NHL with 36 first-period goals.
The jump produced two badly needed goals, taking the early lead.
Abdelkader gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead at 10:42, his fifth goal.
Nyquist took a shot from above the hash marks that appeared to deflect off two, maybe three sticks, and settle momentarily just outside the crease.
Abdelkader skated to it and put it past Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (Commerce Township) for the lead.
The Red Wings had a glorious opportunity with a 1:54 two-man advantage, and though they had plenty of possession time, they couldn’t find the net.
But, just as time was expiring on the power play, Tomas Tatar lifted a shot that Hellebuyck stopped but the rebound went to Nyquist, who lifted a shot just under the crossbar for his seventh goal, at 14:43.
Coach Jeff Blashill talked after the morning skate about forcing the Jets to play defense, and that’s exactly what the Red Wings did.
“They’re really, really pressuring the puck well and not really having to play a whole bunch of defense,” said Blashill, of Winnipeg’s successful style. “They had the puck almost the whole game (in Sunday’s victory over Ottawa), so they’ve done a real good of pressuring.
“In hockey, one of the two teams has the other one on their heels in the games I watch. Most of the time, Winnipeg has their opponents on their heels.
“We have to put them on their heels, otherwise it’ll be a tough night. Make them defend and make it hard to skate up our ice.”
Winnipeg cut the lead to 2-1 in the second period on their own two-man advantage.
The Jets worked the puck to Laine on the dot. Laine, who has one of the best slapshots in the NHL, promptly one-timed a shot past Howard for his 14th goal, at 6:25.
The Red Wings had their own two-man advantage for 1:05 toward the end of the period, but failed to generate any dangerous chances.