For the Red Wings, there wasn’t much positive coming out of Tuesday’s 8-2 loss on Long Island to the New York Islanders.
The best part of the evening for Wings fans was when the final horn sounded.
But there was one highlight, and in a way, you felt badly for Givani Smith. The Wings’ rookie forward scored his first NHL goal with six minutes left in the game. It cut the Islanders’ lead to, well, 8-2.
You could sense Smith wanted to celebrate but he kept it understated, in perspective, and that was appropriate given the circumstances.
“I didn’t want to go too crazy,” Smith said.
Smith got his stick on Christoffer Ehn’s shot that got through Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss.
If nothing else, the goal was deserved for Smith’s improving and hard-edged play since being promoted Dec. 31 from Grand Rapids.
“It’s really exciting, I’ve been working pretty hard to get to that point,” said Smith of scoring the goal. “It’s really tough lose the game but (it’s) a big milestone for me. It was a shot from the outside, a little bit high. I didn’t want to psych myself out.”
Over the last several games, the fourth line of Smith, Ehn and Justin Abdelkader has begun to form an identity of a difficult trio to play against.
Coach Jeff Blashill has credited Smith for his physical presence since being recalled from Grand Rapids, and Smith’s work on the line.
“He’s brought a physicality to our team,” Blashill said. “He gets a stick on the puck and he finishes (his check). You saw that on the goal (Tuesday). He played simple, chipped down the wall, and Ehn got it back and took a shot. Smith was there at the net.
“That line, they’re hard to play against.”
Blashill was also proud of the way Smith handled the situation with the goal, certainly a milestone goal, while in a lopsided game.
“To get his first goal is exciting,” Blashill said. “In a game where it wasn’t going our way and the score was the score, he showed a lot of maturity for scoring his first goal and the celebration he had was a guy that understands the game and is a mature guy.
“I was proud of him for that and I’ve been proud of the way he’s been playing.”
Evidently there were a few words Tuesday between periods for Wings' players to continue playing the right way.
Players talked about how the message continues to be about the next shift and next game, and forgetting about what happened previously.
"No real message, just continue to play," Abdelkader said. "That's been our message all year. No matter if a team scores of what happens that shift, we have to have a next shift mentality and continue to go out and work and play hard.
"Most importantly, we want to be competitive out there. Mistakes happen but you have to go out and try to win your shift, win your battle with the guy across from you. We got to continue to do more of that."