DETROIT -- Until Sebastian Aho's shorthanded goal at 4:23 of the third period, the Red Wings stood toe-to-toe with the Carolina Hurricanes, a team playing desperate hockey trying to solidify a playoff berth.
But once Aho scored to extend the Hurricanes' lead to 4-2, the energy level of the Wings and the Hockeytown faithful faded as Carolina defeated Detroit, 5-2, Tuesday night at Little Caesars Arena.
Carolina's special teams were the difference as they scored three power-play goals and one shorthanded tally to complete the three-game season series sweep over the Red Wings.
Detroit is now 0-20-1 versus the Metropolitan Division this season.
As the third period progressed, the game deteriorated as the teams began to run at one another, culminating at the 17:00-minute mark of the third when Robby Fabbri ran into Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek, the former Wings netminder.
A mini-melee ensued with Fabbri receiving a double minor for goaltender interference and roughing. Tyler Bertuzzi, who played a spirited game, was assessed a 10-minute misconduct.
Carolina's Hayden Fleury also received a minor for roughing, and Vincent Trocheck, like Bertuzzi, was banished for the remainder of the game, receiving a 10-minute misconduct.
Bertuzzi and Christoffer Ehn scored for the Red Wings, while Morgan Geekie, Nino Niederreiter (power play), Justin Williams (power play) and Aho (two goals, one power play, one shorthanded) lit the lamp for the Hurricanes.
Jonathan Bernier (15-22-3) took the loss for the Wings in net, with Mrazek (21-16-2) picking up the win for Carolina.
With the loss, Detroit (17-49-5), has clinched the NHL's worst overall record for the first time since the 1985-86 season.
Next up, the Wings will hit the road for two games, Thursday night in Washington D.C. against the Capitals and a Saturday afternoon (4 p.m. face-off) contest versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Hurricanes' (38-25-5) next action is also on Thursday against the Devils in New Jersey.
1. Christoffer Ehn: With Justin Abdelkader out due to illness, Ehn drew back into the lineup after missing the last four games as a healthy scratch. At 15:26 of the second period, Ehn went to the net and got a perfect pass from defenseman Madison Bowey that he redirected into the net. It was Ehn's second goal of the season and first in 31 games. His last goal came Dec. 10 at Winnipeg. For Bowey, it was his 17th assist with the Red Wings, matching the total amount he had with the Capitals from 2017-19. Darren Helm had the second assist. Ehn finished with 14 shifts for 8:13, had one shot, one hit and was plus-1.
Quotable: "I got the puck in the slot. I didn't have a lot of time but I heard Bowey talking, so I tried to get the puck to him. Then I became wide open in front and I saw that he was looking at me. I had my stick down and it was a great pass by him." - Ehn
Quotable II: "We've been playing some great hockey. We got a couple of big wins. That's huge for us going game to game with gaining some confidence. We hung in there, we had a chance going into the third, and just let it slip away. Maybe a little bit of frustration from the special teams as you spoke about. Not too much different. We just gotta keep a calm head and keep going, even when things aren't going our way." - Fabbri
2. Tyler Bertuzzi: After not scoring in 13 consecutive games, Bertuzzi now has a goal in each of the last three contests. At 13:28 of the first period, Bertuzzi fought for position in front of Mrazek and was able to deflect Anthony Mantha's shot past him, tying the game at 1-1. Bertuzzi also had a three-game goal streak from Dec. 17-22. Filip Hronek picked up the second assist. In his last seven games, Bertuzzi has eight points (3-5-8). The goal was significant for Bertuzzi as he tied his goal total from last season with 21 and surpassed his point total from last season with 48. Last season, Bertuzzi had 47 points in 73 games. Mantha now has 14 points (4-10-14) in the 14 games since he returned from injury. Hronek now has 22 assists and 31 points, which leads all Detroit defensemen.
Quotable: "Every game's a different story. Tonight it was special teams. Bernie's been great for us for the whole season. He's given us a chance, and we had a chance tonight. We just didn't bear down on the penalty kill and we didn't bear down on the power play. They worked. I'm not gonna say they wanted it more than us, because we battled and we hung in there but they executed a little better in the special teams department." - Dylan Larkin
Quotable II: "I think we understood more and more than we have to be a really competitive group night in and night out. I think over the last couple of weeks it's shown even more grit and aggression. I think early on in the game we caused a lot of turnovers up in the offensive zone. That's how we gotta keep building." - Ehn
Quotable III: "I didn't think we were super physical 'til the end. We gotta be more physical early, have the emotion earlier in the game that way. I think we've played better hockey. Like I said, we had the puck more through two periods. I thought we were, I don't want to say the better team, but slightly, we had more chances and we didn't give up a whole bunch. Again, it was unfortunate there in the third." - Wings coach Jeff Blashill
3. Special teams: It was a rough night for the Red Wings' special teams units. First, the power play went 0-for-5 despite having some chances. In the first period, they had six shots on their first man-advantage. They appeared to be making some headway on another late in the second when Trevor van Riemsdyk ran into Mantha. That started a small skirmish and Mantha was given two minutes for interference and Bertuzzi was called for roughing, as was Carolina's Jordan Staal. In addition, Aho broke free during the Wings' power play at 4:23 of the third, scoring his fourth shorthanded goal of the season. The Hurricanes' power play was deadly, going 3-for-4. Niederreiter scored when he deflected the puck at 9:30 of the second; Williams got his power-play goal at 1:38 of the third, extending his goal streak to five games; and Aho scored his second of the game, this one with the man-advantage, at 17:58 of the third.
Quotable: "It was unfortunate that we weren't able to generate anything on the power play. They scored on their chances. It was a tight game. We got a power play there with 15 minutes left in the third, and we didn't even generate momentum. That's kind of the hockey game there. We've gotta find a way as a five-man unit. They have a good penalty-killing unit. They're aggressive but we gotta work together to get the puck in the zone. We gotta dig in on face-offs and be a lot more competitive than we were tonight on the power play." - Larkin
Quotable II: "They're obviously a highly-skilled group. They created a ton of chances but sometimes you just gotta get that break, that one bounce a little bit. Four-on-three is always tough to defend. They'll always find the one-timer somehow. They did a good job sucking everybody in towards the net and it was a great shot. It's tough to give up goals on the special teams. You just gotta get to work and get better." - Ehn
Quotable III: "I gotta find a way to make that breakaway save. Then it's a different outcome. That's part of my job to make that big save at the right time, and I couldn't tonight." - Bernier
Quotable IV: "It's unfortunate because the power play was really cooking there when they shot the puck over the glass. We missed that break where it should have been a five-on-three and I actually thought that power play looked good, that particular one. So it goes from a five-on-three to a couple seconds later being a four-on-four on a penalty to Mantha I didn't see either. That's a tough go, and then in the third it wasn't good enough. Why? I don't know. Guys got to bear down and make way better plays. We get a little bit careless, get a little bored with simple at times. We want to make the plays that aren't there. It wasn't necessarily the case tonight but I think you got to make sure you're digging in and valuing each puck a little bit more than we are." - Blashill