Nino Niederreiter scored two goals, Curtis McElhinney stopped the final 40 shots he faced, and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 on Friday night.
Lucas Wallmark also scored and Sebastian Aho had two assists for the Hurricanes, who have won 15 of 21 since Dec. 31 for the best record in the NHL in that span. Carolina moved a point behind idle Pittsburgh for the final wild-card playoff spot in the East.
Leon Draisaitl scored his team-leading 34th goal on the Oilers’ first shot, and Mikko Koskinen stopped 24 shots while losing his sixth straight decision. Edmonton is 1-7-2 in its last 10.
McElhinney improved to 7-0-0 against Edmonton — his best career record against any opponent. With the Hurricanes largely unable to dictate play — Edmonton was outshooting them 29-14 after two periods — he single-handedly kept them in this one, with his best saves coming on a point-blank attempt by Colby Cave with about 13 1/2 minutes left and a stop on Connor McDavid with about 5 minutes remaining to keep it a one-goal game.
Niederreiter then gave Carolina a two-goal lead with 3:37 left by taking a feed from Aho and slipping a knuckler past Koskinen.
That effort came at a key time for the Hurricanes because this one marked the start of what could be a pivotal stretch. They played themselves back into the playoff conversation while polishing off the club’s best five-game road trip since 1998, and of their next seven opponents, six began Friday night’s games behind them in the standings.
Defense was optional early in this one, with the teams combining for three goals on the first four shots of the game. Goals from Niederreiter and Wallmark sandwiched Draisaitl’s slick goal on a give-and-go, before things tightened up the rest of the way.
NOTES: Draisaitl and McDavid have combined to score 65 of the Oilers’ 158 goals. … Niederreiter has eight goals in 12 games with Carolina after scoring nine in 46 games with Minnesota. … Aho, who assisted on both of Neiderreiter’s goals, has a career-high 66 points…. Tempers flared late in the second when Niederreiter, after being hit by Kris Russell, took a run at Oscar Klefbom and that sparked a brief melee. Niederreiter received a 2-minute boarding penalty.
Oilers: Complete a three-game road trip Saturday night by visiting the New York Islanders.
Hurricanes: Wrap up a back-to-back set of home games Saturday night against Dallas.