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Recap: Canes Earn Big Win in Toronto

Canes move closer to playoff berth with 4-1 win

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com

TORONTO - The Carolina Hurricanes moved closer to clinching a playoff berth with a 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Dougie Hamilton's power-play goal in the second period held up as the game-winner, while Jordan Staal added a vital insurance goal in the third period.

Here are five takeaways from The Six.

One

These four words were a part of the very beginning of Staal's postgame media availability: "Big points for us."

No doubt about that.

After being downed by the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Sunday and the Eastern Conference wild card race impossibly tight, the Hurricanes needed to rebound and snag two points on the road.

They drew a team that had clinched a playoff berth the night before, so perhaps emotions weren't as high for the Maple Leafs. And, most importantly, the Canes came to play.

"I thought we played a good game. Pretty solid throughout the whole game," Staal said. "They have some talented players and created a few chances, but Mraz was there for us. That's what good goalies do. We found ways to get the puck in the net."

"t was an amazing game in front of me. Guys did an outstanding job blocking shots," said Petr Mrazek, who made 23 saves in his 100th NHL victory and was named the second star of the game. "The whole group did what we wanted to."

"These guys play hard," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "You know what kind of effort we're going to get. I thought it was pretty solid. We had a couple little lapses there, but our goaltender came up huge when we needed him to. I thought we were better overall."

Two

The Hurricanes, who carried play for much of the first period, were the beneficiaries of a mental miscue by the Maple Leafs late in the period. Auston Matthews and William Nylander skated into the zone on a 2-on-1 rush, and Matthews gave to Nylander for the one-time finish with 4:59 left in the first.

Led by video coaches Chris Huffine and LJ Scarpace, the Canes challenged for an offside zone entry, and the ensuing video review was quick. Nylander was a good step offside before Matthews brought the puck into the zone, and the score reset to zero.

"We've got great video guys back here in Huff and LJ. It was kind of a bad break to begin with. We knock it out of the air, kind of a bang-bang thing," Brind'Amour said. "It was a break, for sure, but you need those at this time of year."

With that mulligan in hand, the Canes then got a break of their own on a glorious bounce to score the game's first goal late in the period.

John Tavares won a defensive zone faceoff into the corner, where it was pursued by Ron Hainsey and Justin Williams. The Canes' captain poked at the puck from below the goal line, sending it on a trajectory to sneak in off the skate of Garret Sparks.

Video: CAR@TOR: Williams scores from sharp angle

"Willy has been leading us," Brind'Amour said.

Three

Pinball proved to be an appropriate strategy for the Hurricanes.

Eight seconds into their first power play of the game, Hamilton collected his own rebound behind the goal line and banked the puck in off Sparks' right leg, which he then scissored backward to try to cover; instead, the puck went into the net, and the Canes had a 2-0 lead early in the second period.

Video: CAR@TOR: Hamilton banks in rebound for PPG

"I was just trying to get it to the net. I missed the first one and was kind of mad about it," Hamilton said. "I saw his pad off the net and tried to sneak it behind him. It bounced in somehow. I don't know how. Good bounce."

Hamilton added his second of the game late in regulation with an empty-netter. His 18 goals are a new career high.

"Dougie has been solid," Brind'Amour said. "In the second half of the year, he's really contributed with that offensive flair, which we obviously need."

Video: CAR@TOR: Hamilton nets second goal into empty net

The Hurricanes held the Maple Leafs to just two shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes. They denied Toronto a shot in 2:10 worth of power-play time (and in the 50 seconds that carried over to the second period), but it was only a matter of time before the Maple Leafs awoke.

Just six seconds into their third man advantage, Tavares muscled his way to his own rebound to net his 47th goal of the season. Tavares is no stranger to the scoresheet against the Canes: He now has 25 goals and 47 points in 37 career games against Carolina.

Four

The Maple Leafs began to push back with more vigor in the second period after they halved their deficit. That momentum carried into the third period as they dominated possession in the early going. Mrazek came up with a few key saves, perhaps none more crucial than his glove stop on Nylander, who crept in with time and space to shoot.

Video: CAR@TOR: Mrazek gloves Nylander's wrist shot

"He's just been playing that way all the time," Hamilton said of his netminder. "It's nothing new for us to see him like that, and it's probably the biggest reason we're winning."

"We had some major breakdowns, and he came up with four or five [saves] in the third period alone that would have definitely changed the momentum or who knows," Brind'Amour said. "He was the difference, in my opinion, in the game."

Not too long after that save, the Canes' first line rolled around in the offensive zone long enough to begin a line change. Staal hopped over the bench in place of Sebastian Aho, raced into the zone, accepted a pass from Nino Niederreiter and emphatically buried a shot from between the circles.

Video: CAR@TOR: Staal wires wrist shot past Sparks

Big-time goal from a big-time player.

"Gave us some breathing room leading by two goals," Mrazek said. "I think we did a really good job after that."

Five

With two games left to play in the 2018-19 regular season, the Hurricanes are one step closer to punching their ticket to the playoffs.

Depending on a couple outcomes, it could happen as early as Thursday.

"One down. Two to go," Mrazek said. "We're just looking forward. It's going to be a battle, and we're ready for it."

"I really want it this year. Hopefully we'll continue to work in these last couple, finish off, get back in the dance and try to do as much damage as we can," Staal said. "It's been a long road. I want to continue to play well for this team and find a way to get it done."

Up Next

The Hurricanes play regular-season home game No. 41 on Thursday when the New Jersey Devils come to town.

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