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NHL scores 2016: Eastern Conference playoff incumbents won't go quietly into the night

After a solid weekend for the playoff leaders, the road gets just a bit tougher for those looking to join the fray.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It's hard not to talk about the playoffs for the second time in three days when all the games happening on Sunday directly effected the Eastern Conference postseason races.

I wrote on Saturday that the Flyers were making their case for the playoffs loud and clear with four weeks left in the regular season. It seems that the Penguins, Lightning and Red Wings all heard, and did their best to keep the status quo with key victories over the weekend.

Updated playoff standings as of 3/14

Pittsburgh is one of the ones still in serious danger. Their record against their Pennsylvania rivals is not in their favor, and with three games still left on the schedule between them, it seriously behooves the Penguins to pick up points as quickly as they can. With a strong showing against the Rangers in a 5-3 win over their Metropolitan Division foes Sunday, they keep themselves four points ahead of the Flyers. Philadelphia really must be kicking themselves -- and their 2-7 shootout record this season -- for leaving that second point on the table in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Panthers on Saturday.

The Lightning had the least to lose, but their three-game losing streak coming into Sunday wasn't doing them any favors with the Red Wings on their tail. A 4-0 shutout victory against the Blue Jackets should put to rest any fears of Tampa Bay dropping down to the Wild Card, with just one point separating them from the Bruins at the top of the Atlantic.

Speaking of the Red Wings, right now they look to be the ones holding the most precarious lead in the Wild Card race. Even though they stay ahead of the Flyers after besting the Rangers in regulation on Saturday, their 1-0 loss to the Maple Leafs has them three points ahead of the Flyers with two more game played.

Still, Detroit holds the advantage. They're not the ones on the outside looking in right now, the Flyers are. Philadelphia announced their bid for the postseason this weekend, but after Sunday, it's clear the leaders won't give up their spots without a fight.


Penguins 5, Rangers 3
Lightning 4, Blue Jackets 0
Maple Leafs 1, Red Wings 0

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3 things we learned

1. Evgeni Malkin who?

With Saturday's announcement that the Penguins will be missing their second-best scorer Evgeni Malkin for six to eight weeks thanks to an upper body injury, you could feel the city of Pittsburgh preparing to throw their playoff hopes out the window. Not so fast, said the Penguins youngsters in their 5-3 victory over the Rangers. Twenty-three-year-old Conor Sheary had two goals and rookie Tom Kuhnhackl pitched in a pair of assists to keep the Penguins alive. Pittsburgh will need all the help they can get from their young guns now that one of their best players is down and out for the playoff push.

2. Batted pucks are the new norm in Detroit

Both the Red Wings and Maple Leafs had goals disallowed after Ben Smith and Luke Glendening decided to take matters into their own hands, literally.

Smith opted for the shoulder move while Glendening stuck with the simple hand grab gesture. Sadly, both moves are illegal but make for very interesting dance moves.

3. Birds watch hockey games, too!

Nationwide Arena had a visitor to their ice after a bird decided that they too wanted to get in on the hockey action. What a guy.

Impact Moment

The Penguins pulled out a spectacular win over the Rangers, all thanks in part to Matt Cullen's tie-breaking goal from one knee behind the net.

Stat of the Night

Steven Stamkos hit the 30-goal mark on Sunday, joining quite a few big names in Lightning franchise history in the process.