The Carolina Hurricanes are clinging to a slim lead in the Metropolitan Division
They'll look to strengthen their grip when they host the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night
Carolina (50-21-9, 109 points) lost 3-2 to the Ottawa Senators on Monday. The New Jersey Devils (50-22-8, 108 points) reside one point behind the Hurricanes, while the New York Rangers (47-21-13, 107 points) are two points in back of Carolina
Following Tuesday's game, the Hurricanes will finish the regular season with a road game against the Florida Panthers on Thursday. The Devils will host the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday and will visit the Washington Capitals on Thursday, while the Rangers will host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday
The Hurricanes seemed poised to clinch the division last week but have lost three straight games. Ottawa's Claude Giroux, who recorded his 1,000th career point on Monday, capped a two-goal performance by netting the game-winning tally at 9:37 of the third period
"We started this game terribly," Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "Never really got going at all. I give the other team a lot of credit -- they played a real good game. But we were just in quicksand."
The Hurricanes killed off all six of the Senators' power plays. Otherwise, Brind'Amour was not impressed with his team's outing
"We were working really hard there," he said of the penalty kill. "The rest of the game was pretty much trash, to be honest with you."
The Red Wings (35-35-10, 80 points) have lost three straight games (0-2-1) and are running on fumes with the season winding down
They lost a shootout to Buffalo on Thursday, then fell 5-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. Detroit trailed 3-0 in just over 12 minutes on Monday and never recovered in a 6-1 setback to the Dallas Stars.
"I would say, top to bottom, every guy on our team had a game they'd like back," Wings forward Andrew Copp said. "I think we've done a better job lately of coming out ready to play for games, but tonight was one of the nights where we didn't do that."
Detroit was eliminated from playoff contention last week, but Copp wouldn't use that as an excuse for back-to-back poor outings.
"I still have things to prove this season. (Captain Dylan Larkin) has things to prove," he said. "Some guys are playing for jobs or contracts. Everything has something to play for in the last few games."
Detroit coach Derek Lalonde pulled goaltender Ville Husso after the early deficit on Monday in favor of Magnus Hellberg, but it didn't provide a spark.
"We had them with two scoring chances in the first period, and they scored three goals," Lalonde said. "That's not entirely on our goalies, but it is hard to build much momentum in a situation like that. They had six goals on their seven scoring chances."
This will be the rubber match of the three-game season series.
Carolina won the first matchup 1-0 on Dec. 13. Defenseman Brady Skjei scored a goal during the first period, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 27 saves to record the shutout.
Detroit collected a 3-2 home victory over the Hurricanes on March 30. Defenseman Jake Walman scored the game-winning goal with 3.2 seconds remaining, and Alex Nedeljkovic turned aside 31 shots against his former team
--Field Level Media