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Niklas Kronwall talks after the loss to the Hurricanes about the Red Wings' need to play smarter. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News

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Detroit — For those people dreaming of a Red Wings playoff run, just take a gander of Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Carolina.

Judging by the way this game went, the playoffs are a long way off for this team.

The Hurricanes, coming off a bye week, hadn’t played since Sunday, yet simply outplayed the Red Wings in a variety of ways.

The Red Wings (18-20-7) have lost four of five games, including three straight at Little Caesars Arena.

Not exactly the way to begin a second half run toward the playoffs.

BOX SCORE: Hurricanes 3, Red Wings 1

“You can’t look over the big picture,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said of the tall task ahead of making the second half of the season relevant. “It’s a matter of grinding and I know it’s a cliché, but taking it one game at a time. We have a few more games before the (All Star) break, and we need to get a few (wins).”

Elias Lindholm scored two power-play goals and Justin Williams added the clincher late in the third period for the Hurricanes (21-17-8).

Tomas Tatar (power play) scored the Red Wings goal.

Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward made 23 saves, as Carolina outshot Detroit 30-24.

The Red Wings didn’t register their first shot until almost 8 minutes into the game, fell behind early 1-0, and were forced to kill a pair of penalties.

“The start wasn’t good enough,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “Once we got scored on, it wasn’t good enough. We killed the penalties and it took us a long time to get ourselves back going to a high level.”

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Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill talks about how injuries are affecting the team's penalty kill. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News

Lindholm bounced a puck off goaltender Jimmy Howard’s back and into the net at 6:54 of the third period, his 14th goal, breaking a 1-1 tie.

After taking the lead, the Hurricanes stayed to a suffocating brand of defense which yielded few shots and kept the Red Wings on the outside most of the night.

“We made it way too hard on ourselves,” Kronwall said. “We had pucks on our sticks and more often than not ended up giving it back to them. It’s hard to play that way.”

The Red Wings penalty kill, playing without three regulars and losing Trevor Daley (lower body) in the second period, gave up two goals for the second consecutive game.

“Personnel has a great amount to do with it,” Blashill said. “They need reps. We’d like for them to get reps and not get scored on, but that’s part of it. They need reps and continue to work through it.”

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Tatar and Lindholm traded first-period power-play goals.

Lindholm scored his 13th goal at 2:57, just 10 seconds after Gustav Nyquist was whistled for tripping.

Jordan Staal fed Lindholm across the crease, all alone, and Lindholm tapped in the easy goal.

Finally finding their legs, the Red Wings pushed the pace at the end of the period and were rewarded.

On the power play, Mike Green fed Tatar for a one-timer from the dot at 16:37, Tatar’s 12th goal, as the newly-configured unit converted on its first opportunity.

The Red Wings lost Daley in the second period to a lower-body injury. Blashill said Daley is questionable for Monday’s game in New Jersey.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tkulfan

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