Joffrey Lupul has added offensive punch to the Toronto Maple Leafs and has the club in position to end its seven-year playoff drought.
Lupul and the Leafs look to extend a six-game point streak on Thursday evening as they play host to the struggling Carolina Hurricanes.
The 29-year-old Lupul has played in four games since sitting out 25 in a row due to a broken forearm suffered in the early stages of the season. He has scored in each contest, sitting out a pair of games in between because of a suspension for an illegal hit, and has six goals with an assist in that span.
The winger notched his second multi-goal game of the campaign on Tuesday, scoring a pair of go-ahead tallies in the third period, including the game- winner in a 3-2 triumph over the Florida Panthers.
Lupul staked the Leafs to a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal 22 seconds into the final frame, but the Panthers struck back just 23 seconds later. However, Lupul put Toronto back in front at the 3:12 mark, wristing home a feed from Phil Kessel.
"He got a goal in that first or second shift and just carried it on from there," said Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle of Lupul. "They were carrying the play to us for much of the game so we had to find a way to get it done and Lupul did that for us tonight."
Kessel and Tyler Bozak assisted on both of Lupul's goals, while Ben Scrivens came up with 40 saves to help Toronto improve to 3-0-3 in its past six, though the club has yet to win consecutive games since the beginning of the month. Still, the Maple Leafs sit sixth overall in the Eastern Conference, two back of Ottawa and three ahead of seventh-place New Jersey.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have fallen to 10th in the East, three points behind a playoff spot, thanks to a six-game slide. They are 0-5-1 in that span, good for the club's longest slide since an 0-6-1 drought from Nov. 23- Dec. 6 of last season.
Carolina has been held to just a single goal in five straight games, including Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Southeast Division-leading Winnipeg Jets. Jiri Tlusty scored in the first period, but it was all Jets from there.
"We have to play harder," Tlusty admitted. "It's just all about us going out there and playing harder. We have to throw more pucks at the net and wait for a lucky bounce because it's not going in for us right now and we have to get ugly."
The loss dropped Carolina six points behind Winnipeg, though the 'Canes have played three fewer games.
With goaltenders Cam Ward and Dan Ellis out due to injury, Justin Peters started on Tuesday and yielded four goals on 35 shots.
Carolina will play its next three on the road following a winless three-game homestand and has won seven of its past nine in Toronto.
The Hurricanes have taken four straight and 10 of the last 13 encounters overall, including two this season.