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NHL scores 2016: Penguins' road to the playoffs will likely head through Philadelphia

Pittsburgh will have to face its Pennsylvania rivals three times in the midst of a heated playoff race.

Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

If the rest of the Penguins' schedule is any indication, Pittsburgh is going need all the points it can get.

With 20 games left in the season, the Penguins have the second-hardest remaining strength of schedule in the league. Holding a three-point lead over the Flyers in the Wild Card race, their performance in the last quarter of the season is -- in short -- huge.

In fact, the cross-state rivals face each other three times before the end of the season. Two of those games are set to be played in Philadelphia -- which might benefit the Penguins more considering their record against the Flyers at home is, well, subpar.

And with the direction we're headed in, the game at the Wells Fargo Center between these two teams on April 9 could well be for a spot in the postseason.

The Penguins seemingly have a lot more riding on this potential playoff berth than the Flyers do. Philadelphia's season has been called a lost cause all year, one of the final steps before its transition to a younger, more talented defensive core. The fact that they've had enough of a recent resurgence to get them in the conversation for a playoff spot is not only thanks to their better play as of late, but also because of the Devils' slide down the Metropolitan Division.

In Pittsburgh this year, the expectations were high thanks to their offseason acquisitions. One bad start and a firing of a coach later, the Penguins have put themselves back in playoff position. Should the Penguins lose out on the playoffs to the Flyers -- or another team -- it wouldn't be a surprise to see players moved in the offseason to shake things up on a team that's underwhelmed over the past few seasons.

A lot can happen for these two cities over the next 20 games, but it's clear the playoff destinies of both the Penguins and Flyers are intertwined with one another.


Rangers 2, Blue Jackets 1
Penguins 6, Coyotes 0
Lightning 2, Maple Leafs 1
Flyers 5, Flames 3
Red Wings 3, Stars 2 (OT)
Sharks 6, Canadiens 2

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3 things we learned

1. Hat tricks are becoming the norm

Mere days after Filip Forsberg scored his second natural hat trick in three games, two players had hat tricks of their own to lead their respective teams to victory. Patric Hornqvist for the Penguins and Brayden Schenn of the Flyers each had three goals in their matches. Even better? Both were the players' first hat tricks of their careers.

2. Tyler Johnson had a big night for Tampa Bay

It's certainly been a rough year for the Triplets Line. All three members of the Lightning's most dramatic line -- Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat -- have had down seasons across the board, but none more than Mr. Undrafted himself, Johnson. It took 50 games for the forward to reach double digits in goals, but Johnson's pair were well needed in defeating the young Maple Leafs by a score of 2-1.

3. The Blue Jackets were outdone by a shorthanded goal

Power plays -- normally -- are supposed to help your team, not hurt it. Columbus got a bad break in a 1-1 tied game against the Rangers with minutes to play when Derek Stepan put the dagger in the heart of the Blue Jackets with a shorthanded tally. Not much you can do, especially on such a gorgeous goal from Stepan.

Impact Moment

Andreas Athanasiou didn't have the Red Wings' game-winner, but his second of two goals is just another example of the skill these hockey players have.

Stat of the Night

He didn't but two other players did!