David Krejci's game-winning goal Tuesday night padded the Boston Bruins' lead atop the Atlantic Division going into the NHL All-Star break.
The 33-year-old's third-period tally extended the Bruins' advantage over the Tampa Bay Lightning to eight points, and it pushed them one point back of the Washington Capitals in the race for home ice in the Eastern Conference.
The Carolina Hurricanes also created some momentum going into the extended layoff by beating the Winnipeg Jets 4-1.
Two of the goals were netted by Justin Williams, who made his return to the ice Sunday. His two-score night put the Hurricanes in the top spot in the Eastern Conference wild-card race with 32 games to go.
Three other games took place Tuesday on a depleted slate due to the early start of All-Star breaks for a handful of franchises.
Tuesday NHL Scores
Boston 3, Vegas 2
New York Islanders 4, New York Rangers 2
Carolina 4, Winnipeg 1
Philadelphia 3, Pittsburgh 0
Florida 4, Chicago 3
David Krejci's Game-Winning Goal
Justin Williams Nets A Pair
Frank Vatrano's Hat-Trick
Brian Elliott Shuts Out Penguins
Kirby Dach Goes Top Shelf On the Backhand
Jake DeBrusk Rips Shot Into Corner
Sean Couturier's Pinpoint Feed
Nicolas Hague's 1st-Career Goal
Anthony Beauvillier's Tally From Top of Zone
Krejci Powers Boston To Win Over Vegas
Krejci was an unexpected hero Tuesday night, as he missed the previous two contests with an upper body injury.
In addition to his game-winning goal, the center produced an assist on the opening goal scored by Jeremy Lauzon.
Boston entered the game with three losses in four games, so earning a win before a long break was necessary, as Krejci noted, per NHL.com's Matt Kalman.
"Obviously, we wanted to get the win before the [All-Star] break," he said. "We can enjoy the break a little bit more now."
Each of the three defeats since January 13 occurred against teams in playoff contention, but that trend ended against the second-place wild-card side in the Western Conference.
The 10-day rest is a welcome sight to the squad, but once play resumes, the schedule is difficult from the jump.
Road trips to Winnipeg, Minnesota and Chicago, all of whom are in the West wild-card hunt, await in the first four matchups after the All-Star Game.
Earning victories during that stretch is key since the Lightning will embark on a four-game road swing in the same span.
If Boston takes some road points and Tampa Bay struggles, it could have a double-digit division lead in its possession during the first week of February.
Williams Leads Hurricanes Past Jets
In just his second appearance of the campaign, Williams made an impact on Carolina's playoff push.
The winger opened his season scoring account on the power play in the first period and finished off the victory with his second tally in the third period.
After the game, the 38-year-old, who took time off before signing with the Hurricanes January 7, said he felt more comfortable on the ice Tuesday, per NHL.com's Kurt Dusterberg.
"Things just ended up on my stick today," Williams said. "I was the beneficiary of a couple really great passes. I'm feeling comfortable. I'm feeling better than I did the last game."
Carolina head coach Rod Brind'Amour was not surprised Williams contributed in the way he did, per Dusterberg.
"He got a couple goals tonight, but [it's because] he knows how to play," he said. "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. I don't expect him to do that, but it's not surprising."
Williams' experience from winning three Stanley Cups should be beneficial down the stretch for the Hurricanes, who are one point above the Columbus Blue Jackets in the wild-card race.
While it may take a few more games for the veteran to get his in-game stamina back, the transition into the squad should be fairly easy since he spent the last two seasons with the Hurricanes.
Carolina next takes the ice January 31 versus the Vegas Golden Knights to start a brief two-game home stand.
Wednesday NHL Schedule
Winnipeg at Columbus (7:30 p.m. ET)
Detroit at Minnesota (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN)