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Look out, here come the Carolina Hurricanes

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On Dec. 10, Carolina suffered a 4-3 loss in San Jose and dropped to 11-11-6 on the year.

Three days later, things took a turn.

Whether it’s fair or not to call it a turning point, something happened to Carolina in a wild 8-6 win over Vancouver on Dec. 13.The victory kickstarted this current stretch in which the ‘Canes are 8-4-1 over their last 13 and have moved to within three points of Philly for the final wild card spot in the East.

Oh, and the ‘Canes have two games in hand on the Flyers. No wonder they’re feeling great.

“We’re confident, each and every night, that we’re going to get two points,” head coach Bill Peters said following Tuesday’s 5-3 win over Columbus, per ESPN. “I believe when I wake up in the morning on game day, we’re leaving at the end of the night with two.”

There are plenty of reasons for Carolina’s success, but one seems to stand out above the rest:

Home cookin’.

Carolina started this season by playing eight of 10 on the road, including a six-game trip to open the campaign (GM Ron Francis said the schedule was “not ideal,” which was putting it lightly.)

Predictably, the ‘Canes struggled to a 3-4-3 start, but there was belief within the organization things would turn when the club finally got a run of games at PNC. And that’s proven to be accurate.

Tuesday’s win over the Blue Jackets pushed Carolina to 8-1-1 in its last 10 at home and, all told, the club has just four regulation losses at PNC this year, one of the top marks in the NHL.

Peters also seems to have found something with the Jeff SkinnerVictor RaskDerek Ryan line, which combined for eight points against Columbus. Ryan, a terrific story who made his NHL debut at age 29, has turned into a bonafide scorer. He’s been a point-a-game guy through five games in January and, on the season, has eight goals and 17 points through 28 games.

Other guys have contributed as well. Jordan Staal, Sebastian Aho and Cam Ward — who made his 17th straight start on Tuesday — have come up with big performances.

If this keeps going, Carolina will have a legit shot at making the postseason for the first time since 2009.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

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The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.