A stretch of mediocrity has prevented the Carolina Hurricanes from wrapping up the Metropolitan Division title. They'll try to extend their slim lead over the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers when they visit the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.
The Hurricanes (47-17-9, 103 points) havegone 4-5-1 over their last 10 games. In their last two outings, they lost to Boston in a shootout and then got blanked (4-0) by Tampa Bay.
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 31 shots to keep the Hurricanes at bay.
"Not a whole lot of spark to our game. We didn't play the game we like to play," Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "Not enough time in their end. It was weird because it wasn't like we were giving up a boatload of chances, but we weren't getting enough to get emotion in the building."
The shutout defeat was the team's fifth this season and also ended a four-game homestand. Carolina will have to be a road warrior to hold onto the division lead, as it plays six of its last nine regular-season contests in hostile environments.
"We're playing every other night and these teams that we're going to play are maybe out of it, but I've been on that side of it, where you're playing for jobs and kids coming up and playing hard. It's not like you're getting an easy game, ever," Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook said. "We have to figure out where our energy was, regroup, get some rest and come back."
The Hurricanes play two of those games against the Red Wings. They'll host Detroit on April 11.
In the first meeting between the teams on Dec. 13, Pyotr Kochetkov made 27 saves as the Hurricanes blanked the Wings 1-0. Brady Skjei scored the lone goal in the first period.
Detroit (32-32-9, 73 points) surprised Pittsburgh, which is fighting for its playoff life, with a 7-4 victory on Tuesday. David Perron recorded a third-period hat trick after the Penguins rallied from a 3-0 deficit.
Perron's big night lifted the Wings to just their fourth victory in the last 16 games. He now has eight career hat tricks.
"The biggest one of my career was obviously the one in the playoffs (with St. Louis) last year, but this one was special," said Perron, who is in his 16th NHL season. "I've gotten more in my 30s than I did in my early 20s, so maybe I've still got a couple left."
Perron had only scored four goals during the calendar year prior to Tuesday's flurry.
"We battled back in the third and DP getting the hat trick was pretty cool," Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said. "He's been grinding for a while and I think everyone is happy for him."
Usually mild-mannered coach Derek Lalonde was ejected in the second period for complaining about Pittsburgh's third goal, which tied the score. Lalonde felt Jeff Carter's power-play goal trickled past Alex Nedeljkovic because Penguins forward Jason Zucker interfered with him. However, Lalonde's challenge was denied.
"After that incident where (Lalonde) got thrown out, I thought the guys came together, played hard and inspired," associate coach Bob Boughner said. "That team over there is fighting for their lives, fighting for a playoff spot and they played hard and matched us in intensity."
The Red Wings can surpass last season's win total with a victory on Thursday.
--Field Level Media