Led by a pair of goals from Justin Williams, the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Winnipeg Jets, 4-1, in their final game before All-Star Weekend.
Martin Necas and Teuvo Teravainen also found the back of the net for the Canes in their 29th win of the season and second in a row.
Here are five takeaways from the Canes' final game before break.
1. Two for the Road
The Hurricanes were well-aware of the dangers of the final game before an extended break. They wanted to guard against having one foot (or skate) out of the rink and on a beach by focusing on the task at hand. There was still work to be done.
"Guys know they have a nice break, but we've got to get the job done," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said before the game. "We've just got to make sure we do our job to give us the best chance to win."
And, so, they did.
Even before the first media timeout in the first period, the Canes had scored two goals on four shots, including a power-play marker, and the Jets scored on their first shot of the game, with Patrik Laine all alone in the slot for a one-timer.
Video: WPG@CAR: Teravainen hammers Aho's dish to extend lead
It was a busy first seven minutes, and the Canes played with and held onto their lead from there, adding another goal before the end of the period and a fourth in the third. Petr Mrazek finished the night with 16 saves, having only faced three shots in the final 20 minutes.
"Chasing the game is not something anybody is really great at. I thought they had a really good push after we scored our first couple of goals," Williams said. "Not to be a downer at all, but we need to be a little bit more composed in the second period. Petr shouldn't have to make the saves he had to today, but he did and we won, so that's great."
Video: In the Room: Brind'Amour Postgame vs WPG
A critical two points in the standings before an extended break.
"Huge," Brind'Amour said. "I feel like I've pushed this group really hard because we have to. It's a good time to just decompress. They need it. Going into the break with some good feelings is important. It gets us hopefully refreshed when we come back because it's going to be another push to the end."
2. Not Expected, but Not Surprising
"Just-in Will-iams! Just-in Will-iams!"
That was the chant inside a giddy PNC Arena as first star of the game Justin Williams sat down with Mike Maniscalco on the bench for his postgame interview.
"This is pretty special," he said. "It's a special place to play hockey."
Williams, too, is pretty special. At 38 years old, after missing the first three-and-a-half months of the season, Williams returned to score a shootout winning goal in his debut and two goals in his next game.
It's not exactly what he or anyone expected. But it's not totally surprising, either.
Video: Postgame Quotes: Justin Williams
"He's a good player. He obviously had a good game tonight and came up with some big goals for us, which we needed," Brind'Amour said. "He knows how to play. I don't care how old you are. If you know how to play and you know where to go, that's kind of what he does."
Williams downplayed his pair of goals - "Things just kind of ended up on my stick tonight. I was the beneficiary of a couple really great passes," he said - but he's not in position to put those pucks in the net without his veteran hockey acumen or a little bit of conditioning, too. That's a credit to the work he put in behind the scenes to make this as seamless of a transition as possible.
And it's like he never even left.
"I'm feeling comfortable and better than I did last game," he said.
3. Stick on the Ice
With Erik Haula out of the lineup, Williams assumed his spot on the Hurricanes' top power play unit. It didn't take Williams long to make an impact, either. And after witnessing the storybook ending of his first game back, go figure.
Thirty seconds into the Canes' first power play of the game, Teuvo Teravainen put the puck right on Williams' blade in front for the redirection.
Video: WPG@CAR: Williams nets first goal in return to 'Canes
The goal was the Canes' first power-play tally since Jan. 3, ending an eight-game drought.
"You have to be in the right spot and have your body in the right position," Williams said.
In the third period, Williams did more of the same. He raced down the ice to get in position to receive a crossing feed from Andrei Svechnikov, turned his blade and redirected the puck into the net.
Video: WPG@CAR: Williams cashes in on rush for second goal
"I just went as hard as I could to the back post, and the puck was right on my stick," he said. "I can score those when it's an empty net."
4. Pedal Down for Jr.
Martin Necas' speed is too much to handle.
Early in the first period, Haydn Fleury upped the puck to Ryan Dzingel in the neutral zone, and Dzingel laid it off for Necas, who was already cruising. Necas grabbed the puck and blew right around defenseman Neal Pionk. Necas then slid a backhander past Connor Hellebuyck to open the scoring 2:28 into the game.
Video: WPG@CAR: Necas makes nifty move to kick off scoring
Necas continued flying down the near boards, whipping out the bow and arrow celebration.
Among all NHL rookies, Necas ranks third in goals (12), tied for fifth in points (27) and tied for seventh in assists (15).
5. Old Time Hockey
The third period wasn't without fireworks.
"Our guys kind of answered the bell, too," Brind'Amour said. "That's a little old school. Nothing wrong with that."
Video: WPG@CAR: Hurricanes play dodgeball after win vs. Jets
Andrei Svechnikov and Mark Scheifele tussled to the ground and each received two minutes for roughing. That was that for then, but Scheifele wanted more. Later in the period, Scheifele cross-checked Brett Pesce in the slot. Petr Mrazek poked at and tripped Scheifele before Pesce came back at him with some additional stick work. The two then dropped the gloves in what was Pesce's first career NHL fight.
"You could see Svech and Pesce just buckling down," Williams said. "That certainly gets the bench going and just shows to everybody that the Hurricanes aren't going to be pushed around. We don't shy away."
With All-Star Weekend and the bye week coming up, the Hurricanes will rest for the next nine days and return to action on Jan. 31 at home against the Vegas Golden Knights.
"Hey, breaks are good for everybody," Williams said. "Even guys who have only played two games this year."