Detroit — The first game back after a long road trip is generally a difficult one.
That turned out to be the case Tuesday for the Red Wings, although the quality of the opponent also had a lot to do with it.
The Carolina Hurricanes, one more time, showed why they’ve become an annual Stanley Cup contender with a 1-0 victory over the Red Wings.
The Wings (13-9-6) saw their winless streak extend to three games, with a game Wednesday arriving in quick fashion in Minnesota.
“When they (the Hurricanes) start training camp, that’s the film they will show,” said Andrew Copp, noting Carolina’s defensive execution and game plan. “Being on top of guys, they come down the walls hard and pinch, man on top of man, that’s what they’ve done for the last five years. We didn’t play bad, but it’s a frustrating game to play when you kind of let them play it.”
Goaltender Ville Husso stopped 26 shots but got no help offensively as the Wings failed to convert on three power plays (all in the second period) and 27 shots on Carolina goalie Pyotr Kochetkov.
Brady Skjei (power play) had the Carolina goal in the first period.
The loss was bad, but the potentially worse news was possibly losing captain Dylan Larkin. He didn’t play the third period after appearing to hurt his right hand blocking a shot in the first period.
Coach Derek Lalonde said Larkin will not be available to play in Minnesota, but he wasn’t sure what the prognosis was after that.
“Unavailable for tomorrow, that’s all I know,” Lalonde said. “Doc came in and said he’s not playing (Wednesday) and we’ll go from there.”
Larkin leads the Wings with 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists), so an offensively-challenged roster losing its main offensive threat isn’t ideal.
“He’s a driver, a transporter of the puck,” Lalonde said. “Obviously with some of the offense we already have out, he’s still pushed us, pushes linemates, whoever he’s with, and produces analytically. He’s a big piece, with a team that hasn’t produced a ton of five-on-five offense.”
Lalonde said the Wings will recall a forward from Grand Rapids to replace Larkin against the Wild since they don’t have any extra forwards currently.
Larkin played 11 minutes, 33 seconds total, with two shots on net.
Ironically, the Wings have already lost Tyler Bertuzzi (twice), Elmer Soderblom and Filip Zadina this season, for varying lengths of time, because of blocking shots.
The Wings are without Bertuzzi, Zadina, Jakub Vrana (NHL/NHLPA assistance program) and Robby Fabbri (knee) among the forwards. Soderblom was reassigned to Grand Rapids for a conditioning stint last week.
Kochetkov raised his record to 7-1-4, as the Hurricanes (16-6-6) continue sitting near the top of the Eastern Conference.
“He’s good, talented, but we didn’t stress him out a whole lot,” Copp said. “But it was both ways. There weren’t a lot of Grade A chances either way.”
The Hurricanes opened the scoring with Skjei’s power-play goal in the first period.
Seth Jarvis got the puck near the goal line and unleashed a spin-around backhand pass to Skjei pinching from the point. Skjei went high on Husso and scored his fifth goal of the year at the 17:20 mark.
The Wings had three power plays in the second period — Carolina’s Brent Burns was twice went off for hooking — but the Hurricanes’ aggressive penalty kill and good work from Kochetkov kept Detroit off the scoreboard.
“Definitely the first two (power plays) weren’t good enough for our unit,” David Perron said. “We built something on the third, but we couldn’t get the one (goal) there. It’s a little frustrating for sure, the way they pack the PK (penalty kill) is a little bit different too. We didn’t do a good enough job.
“I didn’t think we did a good enough job of that (generating momentum on the power play).”
After a 2-1-1 road trip in which the Wings won in Tampa and earned a point in Dallas, there was hope they could regularly compete against the elite teams in the league.
In fact, there was a theme of increased expectations and not being satisfied with just competing.
The Wings, again, stayed close against a contending team. But not earning any points in the standings stings.
“It’s kind of ebbing and flowing a little bit, and we have to figure out a way to get points in these games,” Copp said. “It’s not just we played a real good team close and a bounce here or there. We have to, if we’re going to take the next step, we have to take two points and confidently say we’re the better team.”