DETROIT - The Carolina Hurricanes capitalized on special teams with three power-play goals and a shorthanded tally in a 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
Sebastian Aho led the way offensively with a power-play goal, a shorthanded goal and an assist, while Jake Gardiner recorded a trio of assists, including two primary helpers.
Here are five takeaways from Motor City.
1. Special Teams Comes Through
Win the special teams game, win the game.
The Hurricanes scored on three of their four power plays and killed off all five penalties they faced, while adding a shorthanded goal for good measure.
Video: Aho, Gardiner lead Hurricanes to 5-2 victory
That's a dominant special teams performance and was the highlight of the night.
"Special teams was the game," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said.
2. Taking Over in the Third
The Hurricanes, a team seemingly bound for the playoffs, matching up with the Red Wings, a team mathematically eliminated from postseason contention before the deadline.
"You look at the standings, and this is a game you expect to win, you should win," Justin Williams said.
But, they're called trap games for a reason.
After wins over Chicago and Tampa Bay, Detroit wasn't just going to roll over, and though the Canes were the better team at times in the first 40 minutes, the Red Wings found a way to answer twice and send a 2-2 game into the second intermission.
"You have to respect the game of hockey," Williams said. "You have to punch in, put the work in and outplay the other team because they ain't going to give it to you."
The Canes took over in the third period. Williams tallied a power-play goal 108 seconds into the period, and Aho added a shorthanded insurance marker about three minutes later.
Video: CAR@DET: Aho beats Bernier on the break for SHG
"The third period was pretty solid. It's good to see we can win these tight games," Aho said. "Every game is huge for us right now. We need points. We need wins. There are no easy games in this league."
"I thought we buckled down and played a pretty decent third," Brind'Amour said. "I liked our response to everything tonight."
3. Willy Keeps It Rolling
When Justin Williams made his return to the NHL in mid-January, he was running on adrenaline. He scored a shootout-deciding goal in his first game back, netted two goals his next game and recorded an assist in his third. In the next 12 games, though he did become a shootout ace for the Canes in two more wins, he found the scoresheet just once with a pair of assists in Nashville. The fumes were running noticeably low.
"You're feeling great. After that wears off, you have the catching-up process. That takes quite a few games," Williams said. "I think that's behind me. I feel up to pace. I feel up to speed. I feel good out there."
Now, having settled back into the pace and rhythm of an NHL season and having found his role, Williams has netted goals in five straight games (6g), becoming the oldest player in franchise history to do so.
Aho said he's not surprised with what Williams has accomplished since returning.
"He's Justin Williams," Aho said, with Williams listening in a few steps away. "Maybe not the fastest guy, but he's really smart and strong."
Williams joked after Sunday's win in Pittsburgh that he only scored on redirection goals, but his power-play tally early in the third period was the "toe" of a tic-tac-toe passing play. Aho fed the puck down low to Andrei Svechnikov who then found Williams in the slot for his eighth of the season.
Video: CAR@DET: Williams buries one-timer for PPG
"He's perfect for our group. We need that veteran leadership, a guy who knows how to win," Brind'Amour said. "It always seems to be him leading the way."
4. Freaks and Geekies
Morgan Geekie had an NHL debut to remember, scoring two goals and adding an assist in the Hurricanes' 6-2 win in Pittsburgh.
He followed up that performance by scoring his third NHL goal on his third NHL shot.
Warren Foegele gained the line and dropped the puck off for Geekie, who snapped a shot that beat Jonathan Bernier and gave the Canes a 1-0 lead nearly nine minutes into the game.
Video: CAR@DET: Geekie buries return feed from Foegele
"Easy league, huh?" Aho joked. "He's looking pretty good. It's great to see. He has confidence and is making plays."
"He's great, what he's doing. He knows how to play," Brind'Amour said. "He's got some skill. He can rip the puck. He plays with a little bit of passion and desire. That's what you need to have at this level."
In the third period, Geekie finally took a shot on goal that didn't go in, the dream of the perfect shooting percentage gone but never forgotten.
5. Mrazek Returns
Petr Mrazek made his return to the crease after missing the last six games after sustaining a concussion in Toronto on Feb. 22. Mrazek finished with 23 saves on 25 shots to earn his first win since Feb. 18.
"He was great. That's great to see," Aho said. "He made some big saves early on."
Mrazek was tested early, as Detroit put 13 pucks on him in the first period, a total that tapered off to eight in the second and just four in what was a dominant third for the Canes. Mrazek was sharp, saw the puck well and was, of course, his usual feisty self, jabbing at Frans Nielsen in the first period and then colliding with Robby Fabbri in the third period, both of which caused post-whistle fracases.
"He was great. He was really solid," Brind'Amour said. "You could tell he was on it right from the start. Made some real big saves at the right time for us. That's what we need."
The Hurricanes conclude their five-game road trip in New Jersey on Thursday.