Detroit Red Wings wind down with slow start in 4-1 loss to Carolina Hurricanes

Detroit Free Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Detroit Red Wings’ slide is almost at the finish line.

They were overpowered by another team fighting for playoff positioning Tuesday, losing 4-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes. It was the penultimate game of the season for the Wings, who will enter another long offseason after Thursday’s finale. They take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on a four-game winless skid, having scored one goal in each of the last three games.

Dylan Larkin and VIlle Husso took in the performance from the press box at PNC Arena. It was 2-0 before the Wings, who were routed Monday night in their home finale, got their legs going. The Hurricanes, who are fighting for the Metropolitan Division lead, relied on Antti Raanta when the Wings made a push in the third period.

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Larkin misses game

Larkin, who leads the team with 32 goals and 79 points, missed the game with a lower-body injury. That bumped Andrew Copp to the top line, between Dominik Kubalik and David Perron. Pius Suter moved to center the second line, with Jonatan Berggren and Lucas Raymond on the wings. Danny O’Regan was called up earlier in the day, but the Wings dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen — Jordan Oesterle was used as a spare forward, with Matt Luff and Joe Veleno. Austin Czarnik centered Taro Hirose and Alex Chiasson. Thanks to injuries and their moves at the trade deadline, the Wings basically were down to having only two lines of NHL regulars.

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Nedeljkovic shelled

The Wings recalled goalie Alex Nedeljkovic under emergency conditions, though he had remained with the team even with Husso returning from a lower-body injury last week. With Nedeljkovic starting against his former team, Husso had to come off the roster. Nedeljkovic, who is trying to earn a new contract, has played well since reappearing March 23 after spending two-plus months in the minors. He had a tough task Tuesday, though: The Wings weren’t ready when the game began, and repeatedly got caught in their own zone. Stefan Noesen scored 2:46 in when he picked the puck up behind the net and scored on a wrap-around. The second goal was just egregious: Jordan Martinook had no one on him as he hovered to the right of the net, giving him time and space to make it 2-0 at 7:51, on Carolina’s fifth shot on net. At one point, shots favored the Hurricanes, 11-1; it was 12-6 at the end of the first period. Nedeljkovic finished with 25 saves. Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored into an empty net in the final minute.

Defensemen trade goals

It was 2-0 when defenseman Robert Hägg took a pass from Veleno and fired a puck that hit Raanta in the arm and rolled into his net, at 5:05 of the second period, pulling the Wings within a goal. It didn’t take long for the Hurricanes to pad their lead, though, thanks to 38-year-old defenseman Brent Burns. The former longtime San Jose Shark, who has not missed a game the past three seasons, scored his 16th goal of the season at 9:10 when he fired the puck straight up the middle from the blue line, taking advantage of Nedeljkovic having two players battling in front of him to make it 3-1.

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

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Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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