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Red Wings to miss playoffs for first time since 1989-90 following loss to Hurricanes

The Detroit Red Wings have been a model of consistent excellence in the NHL, but with Tuesday's loss in Carolina, one of the league's most remarkable streaks has come to an end.

For the first time since the 1989-90 season, a span of 25 seasons, the Red Wings will not make the playoffs.

Detroit's 4-1 loss to the Hurricanes, coupled with wins by the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, eliminated the Wings from postseason contention.

The 25-season streak had been the longest active run in professional sports and saw the team win the Stanley Cup four times. The NBA's San Antonio Spurs now have the longest active streak at 20 consecutive postseasons.

The NHL record for most consecutive postseason appearances is 29, held by the Bruins, who did it from 1967 to 1996. The Red Wings' run tied the St. Louis Blues (1979-2004) for third all time in the NHL. The Chicago Blackhawks (1969-97) are in second place at 28 seasons.

"It's a great streak," said Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, who has been with the team for the past 13 playoff appearances. "The guys who have been part of it should be proud of it. Unfortunately, it's over. We've just got to move on and look to the future."

While Zetterberg, 36, has long been one of the team's top stars, he has started to cede some of the spotlight to younger players such as Tomas Tatar, who at 26 leads the team in goals (23) and was born the same year that the Wings began their streak.

Detroit coach Jeff Blashill is now intent on making sure this is a one-year blip and not the start of a trend.

"We've all known we're in a tough spot here. Our focus is 100 percent on making sure that this is a one-time deal, not an eight-, nine-, 10-time deal," Blashill said. "You do that by making sure you maintain the culture that has allowed that streak to continue for a long time: work ethic, attention to detail, selflessness, competitiveness. We have to make sure that's there every single night. You can't let it slip whatsoever. Once you let it slip, it's hard to get it back."

While the Red Wings will lament missing the playoffs, their opponents on Tuesday night are still chasing postseason dreams.

Just three weeks ago, the Hurricanes were fighting to stay out of last place in the Metropolitan Division. Now, a furious run has them on the brink of a playoff spot.

On Tuesday, Lee Stempniak and Joakim Nordstrom scored about five minutes apart in the first period of the teams' second meeting in two nights.

Jordan Staal and Elias Lindholm also scored for Carolina, and Cam Ward stopped 21 shots. The Hurricanes have earned a point in 12 straight games (8-0-4) to move four points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild card.

"We're starving for the playoffs," said Ward, one of the few remaining members of Carolina's last playoff team in 2008-09. "We've been doing a good job of taking care of ourselves and each day trying to win the day."

The Red Wings beat the Hurricanes on Monday in a makeup game rescheduled from Dec. 19 -- when a Freon leak at PNC Arena made for unplayable ice. Tuesday's contest was regularly scheduled.

The postponement resulted in three games in three days for the Red Wings. They won the first two, including Sunday's home contest against the Minnesota Wild, but visibly struggled with their energy in the finale to snap a four-game point streak.

"I felt like we had a little bit more juice," Nordstrom said. "We wanted to keep our foot on the pedal."

Tomas Nosek scored his first NHL goal, and Jimmy Howard made 28 saves for Detroit.

Carolina started fast and never let up. Stempniak opened the scoring midway through the first period when his wrist shot from the right circle sneaked to the side of Howard's blocker. Nordstrom doubled Carolina's lead later in the period when he collected a rebound off Howard's right pad in front of the net and buried it.

Staal made it 3-0 in the second when his wrist shot from the left circle sailed under Howard's glove.

"The only way to win this time of year is to have everybody contribute, and that's what's happening," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "Guys have to do their role, exceed their roles, and that's happening."

Detroit's fatigue was apparent from the opening puck drop.

Anthony Mantha failed to get a shot off on a first-period breakaway. Darren Helm whiffed on a point-blank one-timer in front of the net. Stempniak's and Staal's goals were well within reach of Howard, who simply missed them.

Overall, the Red Wings were outshot 32-22.

"We certainly have to rejuvenate ourselves," Blashill said. "We've got to come back ready to go."

Nosek avoided the shutout with 6:27 remaining, when Drew Miller's shot wide of the net redirected off the boards into the crease and Nosek stepped behind Ward to push the loose puck in.

Carolina goalie Eddie Lack was in attendance a day after he was taken off the ice on a stretcher following a collision with Detroit forward Andreas Athanasiou. He received a warm ovation from the crowd after an interview on the video boards.

Athanasiou collided with Lack in the crease as he scored the winning goal in overtime Monday, and Lack remained down on the ice for more than 10 minutes before being carted off. He was taken to a hospital, diagnosed with a neck strain and discharged that night.

"I think we're all taking a deep breath, a sigh of relief knowing he's all right," Stempniak said. "We forget sometimes just how scary it is out there."

Lack is day-to-day. Athanasiou was scratched Tuesday due to soreness from the collision.

GAME NOTES

Lindholm finished the scoring with a power-play goal with 2:38 remaining. ... The Hurricanes recalled G Alex Nedeljkovic from Florida (ECHL) to replace Lack. The Red Wings recalled F Ben Street from Grand Rapids (AHL) to replace Athanasiou. ... Carolina C Luke Glendening and Detroit D Ryan Murphy were both scratched after leaving Monday's game with lower-body injuries. ...The Hurricanes snapped a five-game home losing streak to the Red Wings dating to April 6, 2011.

UP NEXT

Red Wings: Finish their four-game road trip at Tampa Bay on Thursday

Hurricanes: Host Columbus on Thursday

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.