RALEIGH — Red Wings winger Darren Helm missed the Red Wings’s 3-1 home loss to Carolina on Jan. 20. The Hurricanes probably wish he had missed this one, too.
Helm got his first points of 2018 with primary assists on Detroit’s first two goals, then got a goal of his own — his first since Dec. 5 — to lead the Red Wings to a 4-1 on Friday in front of 18,126 at PNC Arena.
It was a busy night for goaltenders, with the teams combining for 75 shots on Detroit’s Petr Mrazek and Carolina’s Scott Darling.
But the Hurricanes continued to struggle to generate Grade-A chances, only scoring on the power play. Carolina has scored just 17 goals in its last eight games, more than a third of which came in a wild 6-5 win at Montreal on Jan. 25. In the other seven games, Carolina has just 11 goals — and only six are at even-strength.
“Net-front traffic, I think, is the easy answer,” Hurricanes forward Lee Stempniak said when asked the root of the team’s struggles to score at 5-on-5. “It seems like when we’re around the front of the net, at least one guy, we’re getting some second and third chances.
“A lot of times we don’t have someone there we’re sort of playing on the perimeter or flying by the front of the net,” he added. “And most times, the goalie’s going to stop pucks like that.”
That’s exactly what Mrazek (36 saves) did Friday, continuing his spectacular play from January (3-1-1, 1.69 goals-against average, .940 save percentage) into February.
Darling, for his part, made several good saves but was also beat twice on his glove side and allowed at least four goals for the fourth time in his last seven starts. It was his first start in nearly two weeks, having taken a back seat to Cam Ward as the No. 1 goalie.
“I thought he was real good, to be honest with you,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said of Darling. “I thought we gave up too much in transition. Their transition from defense to offense was very quick, and we gave up a lot of odd-man rushes.”
That was led by Helm, whose elite speed gave Carolina fits all night.
Still, the Hurricanes managed to open the scoring on their first power play of the night.
After a listless 100 seconds, the Hurricanes finally got the Red Wings scrambling and Teuvo Teravainen found Justin Faulk for a big one-timer. The puck hit a body and popped in the air, spinning toward the open net. Sebastian Aho darted in and knocked the puck out of the air and in for his 18th goal a 1-0 lead 8:16 into the game.
The Red Wings got the goal back eight minutes later. Helm found Danny DeKeyser at the point for a shot that seemingly grazed some part of Hurricanes forward Elias Lindholm and found its way through a sea of bodies and past Darling to tie it at 16:21.
Detroit then grabbed the lead five minutes into the second with a display of Helm’s speed and some power from the blue line.
Helm raced up the ice and pushed back the Carolina defense, then dropped a pass to defenseman Trevor Daley for a one-timer that cleanly beat Darling’s glove for a 2-1 Red Wings lead.
With Carolina pressing for the tying goal, the Red Wings instead added an insurance marker thanks to a play started by their captain.
Faulk spotted a darting Haydn Fleury and fed him a cross-ice pass, but Henrik Zetterberg picked the rookie defenseman’s pocket and sent Detroit on a 2-on-1 rush. Gustav Nyquist carried the puck up the right wing and called his own number, zipping a shot, again over Darling’s glove, for a two-goal lead at 7:45 of the third.
The Hurricanes had a chance to claw back in it with Helm in the box for tripping, but the power play sputtered. Teravainen’s point shot as the man-advantage expired was blocked and ricocheted up the ice to Helm coming out of the box. He raced in on the Carolina net, crossing the hashmarks and blasting a quick slap shot past Darling (34 saves) for the final goal.
Carolina, who beat Montreal the night before behind Ward’s shutout, looked the part of a team playing its second game in as many nights, while the Red Wings looked fresh.
“They were obviously a hungry team. … It wasn’t enough effort from everyone, including myself, to get us a win,” Hurricanes center Jordan Staal said.