Raleigh, N.C. — When, and if, the Red Wings complete this rebuild successfully, you wonder if they’ll look a little bit like the Carolina Hurricanes.
And, the thing is, there is an argument to be made that maybe the Hurricanes aren’t completely done yet, maybe a need of a bit maturing and maybe need to add another piece.
But the Hurricanes look pretty darn good right now, and it showed Friday in a 7-3 victory over the Red Wings.
In an entertaining and at times, wild game, the Hurricanes just had a little too much offensive depth for the Wings to contain and the Wings weren’t exceptional defensively.
“We weren’t good enough defensively for sure, we had too many, I would say, individual errors and we weren’t hard enough around our net,” coach Jeff Blashill said.
Anthony Mantha had two goals, one on the power play, and Tyler Bertuzzi had the other as the Wings fell to 4-9-1.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard made 16 saves (on 21 shots) before being replaced by Jonathan Bernier (stopped 11 of 12 shot), after the Hurricanes made it 5-2 at 11:08 of the second period.
Sebastian Aho had two goals, Andrei Svechnikov, Nino Niederreiter, Martin Necas, Brock McGinn (shorthanded) and Teuvo Teravainen (empty net) added goals while former Wings goalie Petr Mrazek stopped 29 shots.
“They’re a team that is real strong on the forecheck, and when you start turning pucks over in your zone, it can shift the momentum at times,” Justin Abdelkader said. “We didn’t do a good enough job of getting pucks out of our zone.”
Mrazek has found a home in Carolina, where he’s 7-1-1 this season, and has now won his last 12 regular season starts at PNC Arena and 14 overall (counting playoffs).
The game turned early in the second period, with the score tied 1-1.
On the opening shift of the second period, Aho scored his fourth goal just 27 seconds in.
The Wings challenged for goalie interference, but it was determined Mike Green caused Hurricanes forward Warren Foegele to interfere with Howard’s pad, nullifying any interference.
The unsuccessful challenge led to a Red Wings penalty, and Carolina made the Wings pay.
Niederreiter went hard to the net and batted his own rebound, batting in his second goal, at 1:48, and giving the Hurricanes a 3-1 lead.
“It’s a two-goal swing, it certainly turned on that,” Blashill said. “You win the challenge it’s a tie game and you lose the challenge, you don’t kill the penalty, now they’re up two.
“I came in between periods and honestly felt we were right in challenging it. … The odds of taking a goal off, compared to the odds of killing a penalty, you’re killing the penalty 80 percent of the time. It’s unfortunate for us, and it was a bad swing for us.”
Mantha’s second goal of the game, ninth of the season, on a one-timer on the power play, cut Carolina’s lead to 3-2.
But just 26 seconds later, at 8:28, Necas converted a nice pass from Ryan Dzingel, Necas’ third goal, after a rush up the ice, putting Carolina ahead 4-2.
The Hurricanes drove Howard out of the net at 11:08, Aho banking a rebound off the back of Howard’s pad.
“We knew they were going to bring a lot of pucks to the slot and try to shoot and that’s exactly what they did and we didn’t close it properly,” Mantha said. “They took advantage.”
While the Mantha (two goals) and Andreas Athanasiou (two assists) and Valtteri Filppula (one assist) line produced offense, they were also a combined minus-9 on the night (Athanasiou — who is minus-16 for the season — on the ice for four goals, Mantha three, and Filppula two).
The defensive tandem of Joe Hicketts and Mike Green (both minus-3) also struggled.
“There’s a lot of minuses, a lot of minuses with those groups and in the end, it’s not about scoring points but winning hockey games,” Blashill said. “You have to have more positives than negatives, but the whole team has to be better.”
Losing a friend
Blashill was visibly shaken after the game talking about the death of Bill LeRoy, the Grand Rapids Griffins’ long-time video coach.
LeRoy, 56, died Friday, while with the Griffins on their trip to Winnipeg. The Griffins play in Winnipeg Saturday and Sunday.
LeRoy spent 18 years in the Griffins organization and worked for Blashill when Blashill coached in Grand Rapids.
“Bill was a good friend and great man, a great hockey man, and loved being part of the Griffins,” Blashill said. “He cared deeply about the organization and the players. He’s been around hockey going back to the days in Kalamazoo in the IHL with Ken Hitchcock and a bunch of people. He had an unreal amount of experience.
“I would pick his brain a ton when I was down there. He was just a really great person and he didn’t deserve this. He deserved to keep living. It’s a sad day for sure.”