The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the New Jersey Devils, 3-1, to earn back-to-back divisional wins to begin the month of March.
Derek Ryan got the Hurricanes on the board first in the second period, and in the third, Teuvo Tervainen scored his 18th goal of the season for the game-winner.
Here are five takeaways from tonight's divisional match-up.
Winless in five straight games (0-4-1) and slipping in the standings, the schedule wasn't getting any easier for the Hurricanes, who were slated to face Boston, Philadelphia and New Jersey - all teams firmly entrenched in playoff positioning - in a four-day span.
The Canes came away with five of a possible six points in that stretch (2-0-1) and have won two straight games against divisional opponents.
"It's crunch time. We have 17 games left now, and we're in this together. We're in the fight and want to compete," Cam Ward said. "We've got to go on a run here to get ourselves in the wild card. Seeing Jordo come back too, he's such a big impact player. He's definitely given us life in the last two games."
"We definitely played hard on the road the other night and played hard again tonight," head coach Bill Peters said. "I like the fact that we only gave up one goal in each game and tonight's was on a power play. I like the fact that we're not giving up much."
Brett Pesce teased Ryan in the locker room after the game. The PG version of it went something like this: "Good thing you scored a goal! You should have had eight."
Hyperbole, sure, but he kind of has a point.
"That's true, especially in the first period," Ryan said through a smile. "It felt like I was getting lots of chances but the puck wasn't going in for me."
Ryan had a couple of quality scoring chances in the first period but Keith Kinkaid had the answers. It was then, of course, a more innocent-looking play that resulted in Ryan's 12th goal of the season. The set-up was nice, a perfect backhand feed from Victor Rask that hit Ryan right on the tape. Ryan was then looking to go cross-crease to Lee Stempniak, but the puck instead banked in off Devils defenseman Damon Severson to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead at the 11:50 mark of the second period.
Video: NJD@CAR: Ryan scores off deflection to break the ice
"Kind of make a desperate play in the second and maybe a little puck luck," Ryan said. "That's just how hockey works."
"You've got to stay with it," Peters said. "Doc scores because he's towards the net and 21 is in the blue paint."
Following a winning effort in Philadelphia in which Ward made 21 saves on 22 shots, Peters elected to turn back to Ward in net, the first back-to-back start of the season for the veteran netminder.
"We had a big-time effort in Philadelphia to get a win there. I didn't face a ton of work and felt capable if called upon to play again tonight," Ward said. "I was excited to play."
And, it worked out quite well. Ward stopped 25 of 26 shots and earned second-star honors.
"He's been great," Ryan said. "We have to have the X-factor back there making those big stops when we need it."
"I thought he was real good. We had a day off previous, and I don't think he's been overworked. I thought it was a situation where we could go to him. He was real good again tonight," Peters said. "He made some big saves again when we needed to and was a calming influence of our guys."
Ward's best save - at least from a timing standpoint - came in the third period just after Tervainen gave the Hurricanes the 2-1 lead. On the penalty kill, Ward extended his pad to make a toe stop on Kyle Palmieri's one-time bid.
Video: NJD@CAR: Ward extends his pad to rob Maroon
"I guess that was a little old-school kick save there. A little Tom Barrasso or something," Ward said. "They got the opportunity on the power play. It was a one-goal game, and you've got to come up with a save at a key time. Fortunately I was able to get a toe on it."
The Canes will likely turn back to Ward in net on Sunday against Winnipeg.
"Guy coming off back-to-back wins, I think he'd look at you sideways a little bit if you didn't go back to him after a day off," Peters said.
It took some plugging away, but the Hurricanes were finally able to find their second goal of the game in the third period on another play that can essentially be described as going to the net and making good things happen. Pesce ripped a point shot, and Teravainen had body position in front. The puck skipped off his legs and past Kinkaid for the Finnish winger's 18th goal of the season. That's a new career high (so is his team-leading 51 points), a stat that he'll continue to build on down the stretch of the season.
Video: NJD@CAR: Teravainen redirects Pesce's blast for goal
"It's an exciting time of year. Every goal is huge," Teravainen said. "It's a lot of one-goal games. You have to find ways to score."
"The game-winner is a guy, it goes off his body and he's by the blue paint," Peters said. "You've got to get on the inside and be in the guts of the game. The guys who do that get rewarded."
Justin Williams netted an empty-net goal to seal the Hurricanes' victory in the final minute of play, but his presence on and off the ice has meant so much more to this team than the raw numbers.
Video: NJD@CAR: Williams pots empty-netter to seal the win
"I love Willy. He's so competitive. He wants us to rally with him," Ward said. "He's the veteran. He's the leader. He's the guy who has been there and done that his whole career and knows what it takes."
"He means a lot to our team. Leadership on-ice and off-ice," Peters said. "On ice he's getting the job done, and that's really what's important. You can lead by example and come through in the clutch. That's what it's all about.
"He's competing. He's setting the tone. He's dragging guys into the battle. You've got to have it and love it. Got to have it."
The Hurricanes will try for three straight wins when they host the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night.
"Every night is a tough night in this league. You're not just going to roll your sticks out there and win a hockey game without putting the work in," Peters said. "I think our guys are committed to seeing where we can get to and how high we can get. We believe we can make the playoffs. We want to make the playoffs. We're competing at a level that's going to give us a chance."