COLUMBUS, Ohio - Led by Jordan Staal and Cam Ward, the Carolina Hurricanes topped the Columbus Blue Jackets, 3-1.
Staal scored his fifth and sixth goals of the season and Cam Ward made 25 saves, as the Canes tallied back-to-back wins for the first time since mid-October.
Here are five takeaways from the Canes' second divisional game of the season.
Because of the way the league is structured and because of the way the Hurricanes play, the team is going to find themselves in these grinding, one-goal games. Tonight, of course, was no different.
The Blue Jackets took the lead in the first period. The Hurricanes answered back in the second. The game was decided in the third period. It was similar to the script against Florida on Tuesday, and the ending was the same tonight.
"You need to be able to play in tight games," head coach Bill Peters said. "We play a lot of tight games. That's just the way it is right now. We're not getting much offensively, and we're going to continue to work on that. I think it's going to come. Be prepared to win a 2-1 game or a 3-2 game. Play that way from the drop of the puck."
"We've always prided ourselves on being hard to play against, and I think we've been doing that as of late. To not give up much, check for our chances and wait for opportunities to bury them, and we're playing the right way the whole time. That's what we've been doing as of late," Staal said. "We weren't up for too long, but for the time we were, I thought we did a great job of shutting it down."
There's the old cliché of needing your best players to be your best players, and that's exactly what the Canes got tonight from Staal and Ward.
Staal made it happen tonight offensively, both of his goals coming off great set-ups from his peers.
In the second period, Noah Hanifin faked a slap shot before laying the puck off to Staal, who one-touched a slow roller into the back of the net.
Video: CAR@CBJ: Hanifin sets up Staal for tap-in goal
"I was yelling, 'Sweep!' for that to get across the goal line," Staal joked.
With the game even at one in the third period, Sebastian Aho won a battle to get the puck over to Teuvo Teravainen, who then fed Staal with a saucy backhand pass. Staal got enough of it to tuck the shot in top shelf for his second goal of the game.
"Great pass by Turbo," Staal said. "The less I think the better, so I was just trying to get it off as quick as I could. I was fortunate enough that it just jumped off my stick the right way."
Video: CAR@CBJ: Staal roofs one for his second of the game
Tonight marked Staal's first multi-goal game in 347 games with the Hurricanes and his first since Feb. 25, 2012. He recorded three multi-goal games with the Penguins in 2011-12 and added two more in the 2012 playoffs.
At the other end of the ice, it was the Cam Ward show.
"When you don't play as much, you want to be sharp. At the same time you don't want to be too intense where you're tensing up," Ward said. "I want it. I want to contribute, and I want to win, too. Today I thought I had a real good level head and felt real smooth out there."
Three saves stand out to me. The first came in the second period when the Canes were down 1-0. The Blue Jackets fumbled a 3-on-1 rush but then got the puck back as the Canes turned it over trying to break it out the other way. Artemi Panarin had all grades of time and space to shoot the puck, and Ward came up with a massive glove save - and shortly after, Staal's first of the game evened the score at one.
Video: CAR@CBJ: Ward robs Panarin with flashy glove save
In the third period, a Canes' turnover in the neutral zone led to a breakaway for Cam Atkinson, and Ward extended the left pad to preserve the tied score - and again, shortly after, Staal scored again to put the Canes ahead.
Then, Ward made back-to-back saves on both Atkinson and Brandon Dubinsky, who had point-blank opportunities in the slot.
Video: CAR@CBJ: Ward reaches out pad to rob Atkinson
"I felt real good. The third period was my best period, and I'm happy the guys were able to get it done for me," Ward said. "They've got some skilled guys over there who are going to get their opportunities. I thought overall we just played a real solid road game."
"I thought we were resilient. I thought we didn't give up much and when we did, we gave up a couple of humdingers. Wardo was big," Peters said. "Those are big-time saves."
Brett Pesce returned to the lineup tonight and brought a steadiness to the Hurricanes' defense. Pesce logged 23:03 of ice time and six shot attempts (two on goal).
"It was great to have Pesce back in there, and it looked like he didn't miss a beat," Ward said.
We're more than a month deep in the regular season, but tonight marked just the second divisional game the Canes have played this season. So far, so good, as the Canes are 1-0-1 against their division (read: two games against the Blue Jackets).
"We played with speed tonight. We were skating and moving the puck better," Staal said. "Our execution has been slowly improving. It's been a continued process."
"These points are so huge right now," Ward said. "You've got to take advantage of these games."
It will be a quick flight back to Raleigh tonight, and then the Canes will host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night to close out this back-to-back set.
"I know we've got a lot of guys who played for the Blackhawks, so we're anxious to get back home and put up a good performance tomorrow," Ward said.
"We've got to win a game tomorrow. We've got to get home and get some rest and then play against a real talented group," Peters said. "We'll have to manage the puck properly and make sure their skill guys don't get left alone with our goalie."