Powerless Red Wings wilt under relentless Hurricanes

Detroit News

Ted Kulfan
| The Detroit News

Detroit — If Tampa Bay isn’t the best team in the division, Carolina might be.

The Red Wings had a good look at both teams this past week, and Carolina looked awfully good Sunday, defeating the Red Wings 2-1, and moving into the Central Division lead.

Anthony Mantha scored with 9.4 seconds left, his eighth goal, depriving former Plymouth Whalers goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic of the shutout.

But the Hurricanes did a lot of things well, especially shutting down the Wings, who didn’t help themselves by simply not shooting the puck on several scoring occasions.

“For the first part of the game we checked pretty well, we didn’t give up a whole bunch of chances, our defensive zone coverage was better,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We competed hard. We were sloppy, though, with the puck. Then, we didn’t have a close enough shooting mentality.

“We talked even yesterday about when you get into the scoring areas, you have to shoot the puck. We passed up shooting opportunities to shoot the puck and as a result, we didn’t create chaos (around the net).”

Dougie Hamilton (shorthanded) and Nino Niederreiter scored for Carolina, as the Hurricanes extended their win streak to eight games..

The Wings (8-17-4) lost their fifth game in the last six (1-4-1), with Nedeljkovic stopping 25 shots for the victory.

“We played hard, that’s a good team over there,” forward Dylan Larkin said. “It was an emotional game. It was very much like a playoff game. Close checking. I liked how we hung in there with one of the best teams in our division.

“We just have to score. We had some chances, but our line, with Fabs (Robby Fabbri) and Mo (Mantha), we had chances, we just have to score.”

BOX SCORE: Carolina 2, Red Wings 1

Hamilton scored a shorthanded goal at 15:13, for the game’s first goal.

The Wings went scoreless on two power plays, and allowed quality scoring chances for the Hurricanes during those instances, forcing goaltender Jonathan Bernier to turn away several 2-on-1 rushes.

But Hamilton corralled a loose puck, broke free on the odd-man rush, and using his teammate as a decoy, glided into the slot near the hash marks and snapped a shot past Bernier.

“He’s (Bernier) played great,” Larkin said. “Every time we need it, he’s made great saves. He’s been so solid for us. It gives us confidence. We gave up too many 2-on-1s on the power play and you can’t do that. 

“We have to battle a little harder for him, he’s been great.”

Hamilton had a great, unexpected scoring chance earlier in the second period.

His dump in caromed out of the corner and slid directly through Bernier’s crease, before  the Red Wings’ goalie backhanded the puck.

Carolina (20-6-1) got the insurance goal with Niederreiter’s 12th.

Niederreiter and Sebastian Aho skated into the Wings zone on a 2-on-2 rush, Niederreiter took a drop pass from Aho, and using Filip Hronek as a screen, snapped a shot past Bernier just 1:37 into the third period.

Bernier stopped 30 shots, twice frustrating Jordan Martinook on Carolina 2-on-1 rushes in the second period.

“He’s been like this for over a year plus,” said Blashill of Bernier’s goaltending. “This is who he is and guys have tons of confidence that he’s going to give us a chance to win the hockey game.”

But the Wings had precious little offense against a Hurricanes’ team defense that made it tough on the Wings to establish anything all day.

The big, mobile Carolina defense consistently broke up potential scoring threats, while the Hurricanes’ work ethic up and down the lineup never allows for a weak shift.

“They play hard, they never seem to take a night off and that’s the approach we have to have,” Larkin said. “And it’s there, it’s coming, we work for each other.”


Twitter: @tkulfan

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