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NHL scores 2016: Panthers reclaim Atlantic lead with 8th straight win

Everything is coming up Florida these days.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The little dance between the Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens atop the Atlantic Division has gone on for about a week now, and boy, is it entertaining.

Not the Canadiens part of it, mind you. Their excellence is old hat by now. No, the fascinating side of this particular jig has belonged entirely to the group of kids down in Sunrise.

Florida stutter-stepped back into first place on Saturday with a dominant 3-0 shutout over the New York Rangers. It was the eighth-straight win for a Panthers franchise finally starting to show off just how deadly they can and will be for the next decade.

Leading the charge during this run has been 20-year-old Aleksander Barkov with 10 points in eight games. Barkov is just the tip of the spear for the Panthers, whose excellent drafting has landed them a young core of Barkov, Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau. But contributions from other excellent roster decisions have helped them reach this point too, so it was no surprise to see guys like Brandon Pirri, Reilly Smith and Roberto Luongo chipping in on a night where Barkov and Huberdeau were silenced by New York.

It took a few years of stumbling around in the dark for the Panthers to get this good. Whether they can sustain this momentum through the second half of the season is up for debate. But you need a good foundation to start that playoff push, and the past two weeks have created one for Florida.

Scores

Blue Jackets 5, Capitals 4 (SO)

Predators 2, Hurricanes 1 (OT)

Penguins 5, Islanders 2

Devils 3, Stars 2 (OT)

Panthers 3, Rangers 0

Lightning 3, Wild 2 (SO)

Maple Leafs 4, Blues 1

Kings 2, Flyers 1

Oilers 4, Coyotes 3 (SO)

Red Wings 4, Sabres 3

Jets 4, Sharks 1

Flames 4, Avalanche 0

3 things we learned

1. Sidney Crosby finally found his game

Crosby somehow only scored six goals in his first 32 games. As logic-defying as that was, at least he's finally rounding into form. With two goals on Saturday, Crosby now has five in his last five games. He's not the only one heating up, as Kris Letang registered three assists and Pittsburgh's power play has scored in each of the last three games. At one time it might've been hyperbole to say as Crosby goes, so do the Penguins. But maybe there's some truth to it.

2. Columbus's impressive week ends on a high note

Well, except for the injury thing. We'll get to that in a bit. But considering how awful the 2015-16 campaign has been for the Blue Jackets, they sure did prove a lot to themselves, their fans and their coach with two huge wins this week. First, they upset the Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars. And on Saturday they mounted a comeback and toppled the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals. Will two wins save their season? Of course not. But it'll create some much-needed goodwill in that locker room.

3. John Klingberg has a mean spin move

Impact Moment

John Scott is an All-Star Game captain. What, you had a better moment from Saturday? I don't believe you.

Stat of the Night

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