Canes move closer to playoffs. What’s left?

The math is getting a lot simpler for the Carolina Hurricanes. And the playoffs closer.

The Canes went into Toronto on Tuesday and beat the Maple Leafs 4-1. On top of that, the Columbus Blue Jackets lost 6-2 to the Boston Bruins -- for the Canes, another good thing.

It would have been a perfect night for the Canes had the Montreal Canadiens lost at home to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and a lot of teams have lost to the Lightning this season. But if the Canes’ win was a clutch one, so was Montreal winning 4-2.

The point totals after 80 games: Carolina 95, Columbus 94. Montreal 94. It’s still that tight with two games left in the regular season.

The Canes and Columbus again swapped the two wild-card playoff positions in the Eastern Conference -- the Canes now holding the first wild card and the Blue Jackets the second. Columbus holds the edge over the Habs with 44 wins in regulation and overtime to the Canadiens’ 41.

Not to be overlooked: the Pittsburgh Penguins lost 4-1 Tuesday to the Detroit Red Wings. With 97 points, the Pens still were third in the Metropolitan Division but again just two points ahead of the Canes.

What’s left? The Canes (44-29-7) will play their home finale Thursday against New Jersey and finish the regular season Saturday at Philadelphia.

The Blue Jackets (45-31-4) have two road games, in a back-to-back -- at the New York Rangers on Friday and at Ottawa on Saturday.

The Canadiens (43-29-8) finish up with a road game Thursday against the Washington Capitals and then home Saturday against the Maple Leafs.

For everyone, there’s still a chance. Still work to be done.

“We try not look at anything but the game,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It’s getting tough because now everybody is talking about it. It’s obviously right in your face.”

In more than 30 years at The N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the N.C. State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina beats, and now is in his 11th season on the Carolina Hurricanes beat. Alexander, who has won numerous writing awards at the state and national level, covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was a part of The N&O’s coverage of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run.