Wings fall to Hurricanes, playoff streak is kaput
Raleigh, N.C. — The Red Wings’ streak of making the playoffs for 25 consecutive seasons came to an end Tuesday in Carolina.
Playing their third game in three days, the Red Wings lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1, marking one end of the mathematical equation that kept the Red Wings at home.
Along with the Red Wings’ loss, both Boston and Toronto earned victories which all combined to keep the Red Wings mathematically from making playoffs.
The three results will keep the Red Wings (31-33-12, 74 points) home after the April 9 regular season finale — the first time since the 1989-90 season they would have missed it.
“We’ve been talking about this for the last few months, it’s a great streak,” said captain Henrik Zetterberg in a quiet Red Wings locker room. “Guys who’ve been part of it should be proud. Unfortunately it’s over. You just move on and look to the future.”
The Red Wings never gained any traction, never put together a long win streak, and it hurt them in the standings.
“That’s probably the biggest reason,” said Zetterberg of the inconsistency. “We’ve been talking about it, when we’re playing well we’re a good team. Then the next game, it’s totally opposite.
“That’s something we have to improve on for next year.”
Tomas Nosek scored the lone Red Wings' goal in the third period — his first career goal — to provide the lone game highlight.
Coach Jeff Blashill said afterward the team will focus on making sure this is a one-year hiatus from the postseason.
“We’ve all known we’re in a tough spot here, but our focus is 100 percent and will continue to be, on making sure this is a one-time deal,” Blashill said. “You do that by maintaining the culture that’s (been here). We have to make sure that’s there every single night. You can’t let it slip whatsoever.
“Once you let it slip, it’s hard to get back. We’re going to make sure it doesn’t slip.”
Goalie Jimmy Howard stopped 28 shots and was especially good in the third period, attempting to give the Red Wings one final opportunity.
“It’s tough, the standard, the bar has been raised high for us and we stride to push that bar every single year,” Howard said. “To come up short, it’s tough. But at the end of the day, that’s the hand we’ve been dealt and we have to move forward.”
Lee Stempniak and Joakim Nordstrom scored Carolina first-period goals, while Jordan Staal made it 3-0 in the second period. Elias Lindholm (power play) closed out the scoring in the third period.
Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward stopped 21 shots to earn the victory.
The Red Wings received bad news before the game when forward Andreas Athanasiou was ruled out with a lower body injury.
Athanasiou was cross-checked in the back Monday on the game-winning goal and bowled into goalie Eddie Lack, who sustained a neck strain in the collision.
Without Athanasiou’s speed and quick-strike ability, the Red Wings were in further trouble while playing their third consecutive game in 72 hours.
The Red Wings came out strong and carried the play for the first several minutes.
But Carolina gradually took control, with the Red Wings getting outshot and outraced to many pucks.
“We had great jump, we carried the play, we were playing good hockey,” Blashill said. “But momentum in games is a big deal and we gave up one and we gave up another and the momentum went the other way.”