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DETROIT — It wasn’t as if the Detroit Red Wings weren’t trying. The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t go without a lack of effort, either.
With playoff positioning on the line, the Red Wings mustered plenty when it came to scoring chances. What they couldn’t do was beat Carolina goalie Cam Ward when it counted during a 2-1 loss to Carolina on Friday.
Riley Sheahan’s power-play goal less than four minutes into the third period cut Carolina’s lead to one, but the misses added up. Instead, the Red Wings took count of the quality scoring chances they missed.
“We had our fair share of chances,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said following Detroit’s final regular-season game at Joe Louis Arena. “We just couldn’t bear down when we got them.”
Gustav Nyquist’s point-blank shot 13 minutes into the game veered wide of the Hurricanes’ goal, and he missed again early in the third on a 2-on-1 opportunity against Carolina goalie Cam Ward.
Justin Abdelkader’s shot from the right circle off a rebound midway through the second went wide, and then Ward (28 saves) stoned Abdelkader with less than 10 minutes left.
Darren Helm couldn’t tie the game, either, with 8 minutes, 20 seconds left when he scooted past fallen Carolina defenseman John-Michael Liles and his shot bounced off Ward’s blocking glove.
“In the end, their goaltender was really good, and we didn’t make it hard enough on him,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We didn’t have enough net presence or second chances and then just intensity. We had wide-open nets to shoot in. If you’re focused and you’re dialed in, you shoot it in the net.”
Two days after earning the organization’s 23rd consecutive playoff berth, a win Friday — or even a point for forcing overtime — would have helped the Red Wings, who have 91 points and are tied with Columbus for the Eastern Conference’s two wild-card spots. Columbus lost 3-2 on Friday at Tampa Bay; Detroit concludes the regular season Sunday at St. Louis while Columbus finishes today at Florida.
Columbus won the season series 2-1 against Detroit and holds the tiebreaker.
“I don’t think we played very good through the first two periods,” Kronwall said. “Way too much up-and-down, up-and-down. You’re not going to win a lot of games playing like. That’s not the way we want to be playing, and that’s not why we made the playoffs.”
With Nyquist serving a bench minor against Detroit (too many men on the ice), Elias Lindholm’s power-play goal at 8:15 of the first period gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead, and Jiri Tlusty gave Carolina a 2-0 lead with 1:36 left in the first when he picked up Eric Staal’s rebound and beat Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (17 saves).
After a scoreless second, Sheahan cut Carolina’s lead to 2-1 at 3:43 of the third period, and the Red Wings held the Hurricanes to four third-period shots.
But after Detroit pulled Howard for a sixth skater with 1:13 left, Johan Franzen registered Detroit’s final shot — a 75-foot slapshot from the neutral zone with one second left that deflected off Ward and into the netting above the goal.
“I was disappointed in the fact that we didn’t stick to what we had to do to have success,” Babcock said. “But it’s a good reminder for us, too. I think tonight might have been a really good thing for us. You can’t cheat the system. It doesn’t work like that.”