Sebastian Aho's fourth career hat trick fueled the Carolina Hurricanes to a 5-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks.
HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTO GALLERY | STATISTICS
Sebastian Aho is heating up at the most critical juncture of the season, and through 52 games, he's better than a point-per-game player. After his three-goal performance, the Central Division's Star of the Month for April now has 55 points (24g, 31a) in 52 games.
"He's a complete player. He can skate. He can make plays. He's got a good shot," Martin Necas said. "He's there in all situations. What can I say? You guys see it on the ice. He's a great player and really important for us."
Aho scored his first two goals about five minutes apart from one another in the first half of the second period, both gorgeous set-ups for the Finn's finish.
A little over four-and-a-half minutes into the second, Andrei Svechnikov shielded the puck from a diving Connor Murphy and skated into the zone 2-on-1 with Aho. Ever-patient, Svechnikov then waited to thread a pass through Wyatt Kalynuk and over to Aho for the one-time finish.
Video: CHI@CAR: Aho nets a nifty pass from Svechnikov
"I saw Svech coming 100 miles per hour towards me," Aho said. "Awesome play by him. Puts his shoulder down, beats his guy one-on-one and makes an awesome pass to me backdoor. Just a great play by him."
About five minutes later, with the Canes on their second power play of the period, Aho set up shop at the top of the crease and put his stick on the ice in perfect position to roof a redirect of a Dougie Hamilton shot.
Video: CHI@CAR: Aho deflects a shot in for a power-play goal
Aho completed the hat trick late in regulation when he stuffed the puck in an empty net to seal the Canes' victory.
Video: CHI@CAR: Aho earns hat trick with an empty netter
"It's pretty nice, but we're here for a bigger goal," Aho said.
Aho now has points in eight straight games, a nice total of six goals and nine assists (15 points) in that stretch.
"We need that consistency, and we talk about it all the time. The competitive consistency, that's the game right now," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "He's definitely doing that."
Put pucks on net and good things happen, right? Just ask Dougie Hamilton, whose shot from a sharp angle along the goal line bounced in off the toe of Malcom Subban's blade.
Video: CHI@CAR: Hamilton scores from below the goal line
"We were definitely clicking early," Vincent Trocheck said. "It was just a matter of coming out ready and making sure those first 10 minutes were ours so we could get a lead early."
Martin Necas doubled the Canes' lead in what was a dominant first 20 minutes for the home team. After taking the handoff from Trocheck at the top of the left circle, Necas scooted into the middle of the ice and floated a wrist shot from the point. With Nino Niederreiter planted squarely in front of Subban, the Blackhawks' netminder couldn't track Necas' seeing-eye shot, and the puck pinged off the post and in.
Video: CHI@CAR: Necas shot rattles around and ends up in
"We just tried to go in this game and play our game. Be strong on the pucks, play in the offensive zone. If there is a play, make it," Necas said. "It was a good start."
The goal was Necas' first since April 10, which snapped an 11-game drought.
"I sucked for the last couple of games," an honest Necas self-assessed. "It's good to get myself going again. I felt way better today. I tried to get involved and make some plays."
10: Hamilton's goal in the first period was his 10th of the season. He is currently the only NHL defenseman to score at least 10 goals in each of his last seven seasons, according to Canes PR.
8: With a three-goal performance, Aho extended his season-long point streak to eight games (6g, 9a).
7-0-1: Alex Nedeljkovic improved to 7-0-1 in his last eight starts with a 1.49 goals-against average, a .947 save percentage and one shutout.
Quote of the Night
"We've been able to stay in the moment. That's been the whole message here lately. Take it one day at a time and one game at a time. We have to do it right every game and every day to try to build our confidence for the playoffs." - Sebastian Aho
Tomorrow. Same time, same place, same opponent.
"We have to keep getting better because when you get to the playoffs, you can't have bad habits. You can't have things creep into your game," Brind'Amour said. "I give the guys a lot of credit. These last three games haven't been picture perfect, but we certainly haven't come off the gas at all."