Detroit — This was a different looking Red Wings team Saturday afternoon and, ultimately, a better one.
Particularly better than the past seven days, as the Wings defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1, ending a three-game losing streak.
Particularly after Thursday’s ugly loss in Nashville, the Wings were intent on out-working, then outplaying the Blue Jackets and that’s what the Wings did.
“I like our group of guys, our guys care,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “They were embarrassed in Nashville and they showed up yesterday (Friday) and worked their tails off and showed up today and worked their tails off and we have to show up tomorrow and work our tails off.”
The Wings dominated the first period, outshooting Columbus 16-5, and taking a 2-0 lead when Adam Erne and Robby Fabbri scored 29 seconds apart midway in the first period.
Anthony Mantha made it 3-1 at 4:42 of the third period, giving the Wings insurance.
Goaltender Calvin Pickard, getting the start in place of Thomas Greiss (and injured Jonathan Bernier), earned his first victory as a Red Wing with 21 saves and first win in the NHL since Nov. 23, 2018 (when Pickard was with the Philadelphia Flyers).
“We weren’t too thrilled with our game in Nashville and we had a hard practice yesterday,” said Pickard, who has spent the majority of this season on the taxi squad as the third goalie. “Everybody wanted to bounce back today and we came out flying.
“We had a great first period that set the tone and played real well for a full 60 (minutes).”
Pickard noticed the Wings’ resolve and determination during Friday’s intense practice, which was a candidate for the Wings’ toughest of the season.
The intensity carried over to Saturday’s game.
“It started with practice, we had a hard-nosed practice Friday and got to the rink today and it was all business,” Pickard said. “We wanted to bounce back and start to finish we did it.”
Pickard appeared to gain confidence as the game progressed and had several key saves in the third period, including steering away a Seth Jones one-timer with just under seven minutes left, to maintain the Wings’ two-goal lead.
“Picks played well, he did a real good job,” Blashill said. “Our guys really like him. He’s one of the better guys I’ve been around in my career. He’s a great guy, worked real hard in a difficult situation being the third goalie most of the year. Guys have a lot of respect for him.”
The Wings dominated the opening 20 minutes and took control of the game early. They clearly looked like the hungrier and more desperate team, and it proved beneficial.
Pickard only had to make five saves in the period, as the Wings seemingly had the puck all the time, but enjoyed the view.
“Every goalie has played those types of periods,” Pickard said. “You have to stay in it, and I play the puck so that keeps me into it a little more. You just have to navigate through it, you’re going to be called upon at any moment and you have to make sure you’re ready for it.
“It was nice to sit back and watch an absolute clinic in the first period. It was fun to watch.”
The Wings (11-20-4) and Columbus (13-14-8) conclude the two-game series with another 3 p.m. start Sunday at LCA.
Nick Foligno scored for the Blue Jackets, who are winless in three games (0-2-1), and desperately need points to stay in the playoff chase.
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