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Hamilton Scores Overtime Winner; Canes Extend Point Streak to Ten Games

JL Matthews

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Raleigh, NC -- Dougie Hamilton had the overtime winner, assisted by goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, as the Carolina Hurricanes (34-10-7, 75pts) defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets (16-25-11, 43pts) 2-1 on Saturday night.

In addition to the game-winning assist, Nedeljkovic (14-4-3, .934 SV%, 1.89 GAA) made 31 saves on 32 shots faced. He's now gone 6-0-1 over his last seven starts.

Max Domi scored the Blue Jackets' only goal.

When he was asked about it, Alex Nedeljkovic had an understated answer.

"Yeh, it's been exciting. Getting the win tonight makes it even more special."

The 25-year-old Parma native put the exclamation point on a memorable 48-hours with a second-star performance on Saturday night. On Friday, he proposed to his girlfriend, who accepted.

"Yesterday was a great day, and I'm looking forward to spending the rest of my life with the love of my life."

It's been a breakout season for Nedeljkovic, who has placed himself in the discussion for the Calder Trophy with sterling stats, including the best save percentage and goals-against average for any NHL goalie with at least 15 starts.

But Nedeljkovic was not the only Hurricane beaming from the presentation of some bling.

Sebastian Aho was named the April Star of the month in the Central Division on Saturday. Aho's 18 points (6g, 12a) during his 16 games played was 7th best in the NHL during April. On Saturday night, Aho kept things rolling with the primary assist on Teuvo Teravainen's 1st-period goal. The assist extended Aho's point streak to seven games.

Despite all the streaks, awards, and marriage proposals, Canes head coach Rod Brind'Amour used his post-game press conference to emphasize that his team has but one goal: Winning the Stanley Cup.

Asked about the tight race Carolina finds itself in for the President's Trophy (awarded to the team that accumulates the most points in the regular season), Brind'Amour gave a blunt assessment.

"I don't know if I would say it matters," Brind'Amour said. "I mean, it's probably the most irrelevant trophy out there, right? You're not playing for that."

With only five games remaining, Brind'Amour's team is nevertheless in a great position to win the President's Trophy, something the Hurricanes franchise has never done.

Yet, as the head coach made clear, the first step is to win the Central Divsion.

"If [The President's Trophy] falls in our laps because we play well in the last five games, great," Brind'Amour said. "We want to get first place in the Division; that's the thing that's most important. That's what we'll try to do."

Following the win, Carolina holds a two-point lead over Florida, with two games-in-hand on the Panthers. Tampa Bay, who plays on Sunday, currently trails Carolina by four points with five games to play in the regular season. Two of those games for Tampa Bay come against the Florida Panthers.

One thing is for sure. With the regular season rapidly coming to a close, Brind'Amour and his players appear on the verge of something worth remembering.

Housekeeping

Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, and Alex Nedeljkovic each recorded one assist for the Canes.

Oliver Bjorkstrand and Eric Robinson each registered an assist for Columbus.

Brock McGinn (upper body), Jordan Martinook (lower body), Jesper Fast (lower body), Cedric Paquette (undisclosed), Jake Gardiner (healthy), and Petr Mrazek (lower body) did not dress for the game.

Elvis Merzlikins (7-12-4, .917 SV%, 2.75 GAA) took the loss for the Blue Jackets. Merzlikins made 31 saves on 33 shots faced.

Up Next

Carolina: The Hurricanes take on the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night at 7:00 ET.

Columbus: The Blue Jackets return to Columbus to take on the Predators on Monday night at 7:00 ET.

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JL Matthews is a writer with interests spanning history, humor, tv/film, parenting, and more. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he is a 6x Top Writer on Medium. Follow him on News Break, Medium, and Twitter for updates and latest work.

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