Backed by Curtis McElhinney in net, the Carolina Hurricanes held on to defeat the Edmonton Oilers, 3-1, on Friday night at PNC Arena.
Nino Niederreiter netted two goals for the second time against Edmonton this season, and McElhinney made 40 saves in his fourth consecutive win.
Here are five takeaways from tonight's game.
The Hurricanes were not the better team on the ice tonight. Head coach Rod Brind'Amour even said so.
"We were not the better team," he said.
But the important part is the result, and the Canes found a way to come away with their fifth win in their last six games.
Video: EDM@CAR: Foegele goes yard in latest Storm Surge
"Every single game matters a lot, so we've got to make sure we even win the close ones," Niederreiter said. "They had a great push. They have some phenomenal players on their roster, but at the end of the day, we got the win."
"It just didn't feel like we quite could get to what we needed to do. I give them a lot of credit. The other team played really hard. They were kind of dictating more of the play for most of the night," Brind'Amour said. "We just battled and hung in there. Our goaltender was great tonight, and that was probably the difference in the game."
McElhinney was indeed great tonight, and his first-star effort stole the Canes two points.
His collection of 40 saves didn't feature any particular showstoppers, but there were plenty of timely stops and the usual batch of cool, calm and collected saves. In the second period, Connor McDavid motored around Brett Pesce, but McElhinney's blocker turned away McDavid's scoring opportunity.
Video: EDM@CAR: McElhinney uses blocker to deny McDavid
McElhinney was also the Canes' best penalty killer, as he turned away all six shots he saw while his team was a man down. He even tossed in a pair of shorthanded saves on McDavid and Alex Chiasson in the first period.
"You need goaltending in this league. Everybody knows it," Brind'Amour said. "Especially on nights like tonight when we weren't at our best."
For his part, the Canes' 35-year-old netminder relishes the opportunity to play in meaningful games down the stretch of the regular season.
"I don't think there's anything better," McElhinney said. "It feels awesome.
If you were late getting in your seat or late flipping to the game on television, first of all, shame. Second of all, you might have missed 75 percent of the offense in the game.
The first 136 seconds of the game featured three goals, and it felt like we might be in store for another 11-goal, high-scoring affair, as was the case in Edmonton on Jan. 20.
Niederreiter, who scored two goals in his second game with the Canes in Edmonton, opened the scoring just 37 seconds into the game. From behind the net, Justin Williams centered the puck to Sebastian Aho, who one-touched it over to Niederreiter for the finish.
Video: EDM@CAR: Niederreiter scores in game's opening minute
"Nino has been lights out since he arrived," Brind'Amour said. "It's been a big, big boost for our group."
The Oilers answered quickly to even the score with the game just 92 seconds old. On a 2-on-1 rush, Leon Draisaitl executed a give-and-go with Zack Kassian to make it a 1-1 game.
The Hurricanes weren't done, though. Just 44 seconds later, the Canes had numbers up the ice. Skating down the left wing, Micheal Ferland dished to Teuvo Teravainen in the middle, and he found Lucas Wallmark, who banged in a top-shelf one-timer.
Video: EDM@CAR: Wallmark buries one-timer from the circle
After that offensive explosion in the game's opening minutes, the following 3,247 seconds featured exactly zero goals.
While Edmonton pushed and controlled the pace of play, McElhinney was the difference for the Hurricanes until they could stretch their lead to two goals late in the third period.
With the help of Aho, Williams won a board battle high in the defensive zone. Aho then raced down the ice on a 2-on-1 rush with Niederreiter to his left. Aho backhanded a perfect pass through a defending Adam Larsson and the reaching stick of McDavid, and Niederreiter got just enough of his shot to tap it through Mikko Koskinen.
Video: EDM@CAR: Niederreiter pots second goal on Aho's feed
"That's a great play by Willy to get the puck out and a terrific pass by Aho," Niederreiter said. "I had a chance to bury that."
"That was a huge goal at that point in the game," McElhinney said. "We're just getting critical plays at critical times right now."
The goal was Niederreiter's eighth in 12 games with the Hurricanes. Prior to being traded from Minnesota on Jan. 17, Niederreiter had nine goals in 46 games with the Wild.
"You want to be the best player you can be. Sometimes a change helps. Sometimes it doesn't," Niederreiter said. "In my case, it definitely helped a lot."
"I think everybody knew he was a talented player. For whatever reason, sometimes you get stuck in ruts in organizations. It happens to everybody. We've all been through it," Brind'Amour said. "He just needed a little change of scenery, I think, and we've got a good mix with him playing with Seabass and Willy."
The win improves the Hurricanes to 15-5-1 (31 points) since New Year's Eve, and the team is now within a point of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 24 games remaining.
"It's coming down to playoff hockey and who wants it more," Niederreiter said. "We've got to make sure we find a way to battle out games like tonight. It definitely wasn't our best hockey we've played, but we found a way to win. That's what matters."
"We know what the situation is," McElhinney said. "It's going to take a lot for us to get in the playoffs, but the guys have been rolling since before the break, and we came out of it pretty hot, so it's just a matter of gas pedal to the floor."
The Hurricanes host the Dallas Stars in a later-than-usual 8 p.m. faceoff on Saturday.