Red Wings forward Darren Helms talks about the 5-1 win over the Jets on Tuesday. Ted Kulfan
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, spirited game.
“We just weren’t playing with a lot of passion the last couple of games,” said forward Darren Helm, who had a goal. “We wanted to play with a lot more intensity. We put pucks in deep, we didn’t give them a lot of space, and we got the lead.”
The Red Wings (11-12-5, 27 points) kept the dangerous Jets (17-7-4, 38 points) grounded most of the evening, killed five of six power plays, and established control early with a dominant first period.
Wings coach Jeff Blashill talks about beating the Jets 5-1 on Tuesday. Ted Kulfan
“Our energy level was better,” Blashill said. “We were on pucks quicker, we got on our toes. Every single game, one team is trying to put the other on its heels. The last five periods, we spent a lot of time in those games on our heels.
“But our energy level was good and early on everybody was playing real good hockey.”
Gustav Nyquist scored two goals, and Justin Abdelkader, Helm and David Booth added the other for the Red Wings, while goaltender Jimmy Howard stopped 25 shots.
Nyquist, 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.
“The game in Montreal didn’t show who we are,” Booth said. “Tonight shows who we are. We needed to respond from that game.”
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 out-playing 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 into the game leading the NHL with 36 first-period goals.
“We did a way better job of not making any real goofy errors and giving them easy chances,” Blashill said. “Our leadership did a real good job of, after the last game, setting the tone of obviously that wasn’t good enough.
“We came out, and from top to bottom, everybody was playing.”
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 (27 saves) stopped but the rebound went to Nyquist, who lifted a shot just under the crossbar for his seventh goal, at 14:43.
“You get that long 5-on-3, it can be easy to deflate you for sure,” Blashill said. “We had chances and shots and there was a chance to build momentum, but to score was huge.”