Wings’ Nedeljkovic blanks ex-teammates, stops 46 shots in 3-0 win in Carolina

Detroit News

Raleigh, N.C. — Alex Nedeljokovic got a measure of revenge against his former team.

Nedeljkovic stopped 46 shots Thursday for his third shutout as the Red Wings defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0.

It was the Hurricanes who traded Nedeljkovic, a finalist for the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) last season, to the Wings last summer rather than risk paying Nedeljkovic more than they felt comfortable with in arbitration.

In return the Wings sent the rights to goaltender Jonathan Bernier (a free agent who didn’t sign with Carolina anyway) and a third-round draft choice.

The Hurricanes (48-19-8) have 104 points, so it’s not like they’re missing Nedeljkovic. But Nedeljkovic, who has struggled the second half of the season after an impressive first half, gave the Wings another glimpse of his potential going forward.

“Anytime you get a shutout in this league it’s always special,” Nedeljkovic said. “Maybe tonight, a little bit more.”

BOX SCORE: Red Wings 3, Hurricanes 0

Nedeljkovic has repeatedly said coming to the Wings was a pleasant opportunity, given his wife is from the area and he’s spent considerable time in the Detroit area playing junior hockey.

The trade surprised him, but he’s long over it.

“There’s never any hard feelings,” Nedeljkovic said. “It’s a game but there’s a business side to it and I understand they had to make what they thought was (a decision) best for them and honestly, it’s a really, really good move for me as well, given the opportunity here in Detroit.”

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Moritz Seider supplied all the offense the Wings would need, scoring his sixth goal at 19:47 of the second period, just as a Wings’ power play was expiring.

Adam Erne and Filip Zadina added insurance third-period goals, as the Wings (29-35-10) ended a modest two-game winless streak.

“They’re one of the best teams in the league, but our guys battled and we didn’t do everything perfect, Ned was outstanding, was absolutely great, and good for him, I know how much this meant to him, so good for him,” Blashill said. “We battled and stayed with it. The want on the bench was great, the energy was good, and we got great goaltending, and it allowed us to find a way to win.”

Blashill has remarked often this season about the battle level Nedeljkovic brings to the ice. Against the Hurricanes, that competitiveness came through.

“There was a lot of stuff around the cage, and  he really had to hang in there and battle,” Blashill said. “It wasn’t just perimeter shots or even like back door stuff. There was a lot of stuff around the cage and that’s what this team does, they’re hard around the cage and he was outstanding.

“We had plenty of mistakes but the best eraser out there is the goaltender and he did that tonight.”

Nedeljkovic credited the players in front of him, sacrificing their bodies for the victory.

More: Goalie Magnus Hellberg to join Red Wings, but playing this season uncertain

“We were sacrificing our bodies, sacrificing for each other, we were doing that beginning of the year,” Nedeljkovic said. “We did a good job, for the most part, of shutting them down.”

Seider’s sixth goal, with just 13 seconds left in the second period, proved to be the winner. Dylan Larkin set Seider up with a nifty behind the back pass and Seider bounced a shot past goalie Antti Raanta.

Erne and Zadina added the third-period insurance goals.

Driving through the slot, Erne pounced on a loose puck near the crease and flipped a backhander past Raanta, Erne’s sixth goal, at 3:01.

Zadina scored his 10th goal, snapping a shot that appeared to deflect off a Hurricanes’ stick and through Raanta at 13:33.

The Wings killed all three Carolina power plays in the game, another key component, including two in the third period.

This game as also a good test for the Wings’ young players to see what it takes to play playoff type hockey this late in the season.

Thursday’s game began a stretch where the Wings play six consecutive playoff teams. But the Wings responded to the challenge against the Metropolitan Division leading Hurricanes.

“It gives you an opportunity, as a young player, to see where you stack up,” Blashill said. “As we’ve moved through the year here, and lose (Robby) Fabbri  (to knee surgery) and Vlade (Namestnikov, to trade), you have young players in bigger, more prime roles and this is what it’s like if  you want to be a real good team. We have to play better than that, and guys have to step up and be excellent on a night to night basis.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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