Red Wings respond after brutal loss, tough practice; Calvin Pickard steps up again

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings knew Thursday's 7-1 loss in Nashville was not acceptable on any level.

No area of the game was good enough, but even more disheartening, the competitiveness of the team was questionable.

Red Wings forward Evgeny Svechnikov (37) greets goaltender Calvin Pickard (31) after the team's 4-1 win Sunday over the Blue Jackets in Detroit.

So the Wings returned home, and they arrived at practice Friday with renewed energy.

The way the Wings responded against Columbus, with two convincing victories Saturday and Sunday, was a testament to this roster's accountability and professionalism.

"We had a great practice Friday," forward Dylan Larkin said. "We got home and had one of the best practices of the year and we answered the bell this weekend.

"I'm proud of our guys."

Larkin knew the team understood Thursday's loss wasn't good enough in any respect.

"It was tough; we all knew after that game in Nashville that wasn't good enough," Larkin said. "The effort, the compete, the way we have to play. It was everything."

Coach Jeff Blashill was confident his team would rebound after Thursday's loss, but nothing is a given in the NHL.

Still, the way the Wings did come back and control play for large parts of these two games was eye-opening.

"I really like our guys, their competitiveness and self-accountability and they looked in the mirror after that (Nashville) game and came to practice and practiced their tails off," Blashill said. "It showed in back-to-back games. Three games in four days, four days of pretty hard (skating, work) and just kept working."

In both victories over Columbus, the Wings had a superb first period, out-working and demoralizing the Jackets, who are fighting for a playoff berth.

Larkin credited the checking line of Darren Helm, Luke Glendening and Adam Erne, whose physical and grinding style set the tone against a Columbus team that prefers to play that way.

"They set the example for the rest of us," Larkin said. "It was a tough first period, we had to get into the game, but those guys have been leading the way up front for a while. They just work and that's what we had to do, and work and win the puck back on the forecheck."

Credit Pickard

Goaltender Calvin Pickard won his first two games of the season, and his Wings' career, with the weekend victories.

In Zoom interviews with the media, teammates were thrilled Pickard, 28, a career NHL journeyman, who has maintained an admirable work ethic and attitude being the taxi squad, No. 3 goalie, on the roster.

Larkin remembered reading a story last week about former Michigan teammate goaltender Jack Campbell (Toronto Maple Leafs) of Port Huron, and how Campbell has been a huge factor with the Leafs because of his positive attitude.

"I read it and what his teammates had to say and I just had to think about Pixie and how he's handled this season and his attitude every day coming to the rink," Larkin said. "He just brightens up the room and he's such a great guy, a real hard worker and he'll do anything in practice. He'll stay out until the last guy is out (off the ice) and he always has a smile, a  joke, or a one liner. Just a great teammate and person to be around, and a great professional.

"We're all pretty pumped for him and we'll see what happens, whether the coaches keep riding him or whatever the coaches decide, but we know he'll be ready."

Pickard earned his second win in as many days with 16 saves, posting his first back-to-back wins since Oct. 10-16, 2018 with Philadelphia.

Pickard is the first Red Wings goaltender other than Jonathan Bernier to win back-to-back games since Jimmy Howard won five straight decisions from March 19-April 2, 2019.

Ice chips

Bobby Ryan left the game in the first period, after playing 4 minutes 11 seconds, with what the team called an upper-body injury. Blashill had no further update as to how long Ryan could be unavailable.

"I don't think it'll be anything real serious, but that doesn't mean he won't potentially be out for the next game," Blashill said.

... The Wings' back-to-back victories over Columbus was the first two-game sweep over the same opponent this season.

…. The inability of Michigan’s hockey team to compete in the NCAA postseason was a tough blow for the program. Blashill, a former Western Michigan coach, felt for the coaches and players.

“It’s certainly hard for the players, and coaches, too,” Blashill said. “It’s the coaches’ livelihood, too, and they’ve put in a lot of work, a ton of work, to get to that point. They have a real good team, and I know a number of those players and they’re real good players and they probably had a chance to do something special.”

... Evgeny Svechnikov's goal was his career-high third goal and fifth point in eight games this season.

... Michael Rasmussen's go-ahead goal was his first NHL goal in 22 games, but spanning 746 days, since March 14, 2019 against Tampa Bay. It was also Rasmussen's first NHL game-winning goal.

... Vladislav Namestnikov's empty-net goal was his 200th career NHL point.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan