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NHL scores 2016: Penguins peaking at the right time with playoffs looming

This weekend belonged to the black and gold of Pittsburgh.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

While we've mentioned essentially every team in the playoff races over the last week or so, we might have overlooked one huge player. You may have done the same, as a matter of fact.

Blink and you missed it, but the Penguins have gone from a team in danger of losing a Wild Card spot to second place in the Metropolitan Division. In a week and change, Pittsburgh has flipped the narrative on the playoff race in the East with a six-game win streak -- and they've mostly done it without Evgeni Malkin.

After showing up and shutting down the Flyers on Saturday -- who had just 17 shots on net -- the Penguins executed a similar plan against the Capitals just over 24 hours later. Washington, as a result, had just one more shot on goal than Philadelphia had on Saturday.

That's right, the Penguins outshot their opponents 66-35 over the weekend, and outscored them 10-3. It was a dominant display by Pittsburgh and a muscle flex to the entirety of the NHL. Even without one of their best players, the Penguins basically rolled over a team that's had their number for years now, and are the undisputed favorites to take home the Eastern Conference crown.

When the Penguins are off, they're hard to watch. We saw it earlier this year when Sidney Crosby and the rest of the offense couldn't score to save their lives. It resulted in them firing bench boss Mike Johnston and hiring Mike Sullivan mid-season. Since, the Penguins have been slowly climbing themselves out of the middle of the Metropolitan Division with their new identity.

They're fast, they're relentless on the forecheck and even despite a blue line with very few recognizable names, their defense has shown they can be suffocating beyond belief. Want proof? Just ask the Flyers and Capitals after the weekends they had.

The Penguins were once thought to be a one-and-done first-round matchup for one of the top teams in the East, but now they're one of those top teams. They're getting hot at the right time, so much so that they could end up being spoilers for someone in the playoffs should they continue to play their game.

If Pittsburgh's still rolling and Malkin comes back, watch out NHL. Stanley Cups have been won with a lot less than what the Penguins are packing right now.

Scores

Ducks 3, Jets 2 (OT)
Devils 2, Blue Jackets 1
Penguins 6, Capitals 2
Flames 4, Canadiens 1
Wild 3, Blackhawks 2 (SO)
Avalanche 3, Oilers 2
Sharks 3, Coyotes 0

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3 things we learned

1. No one played defense on Anaheim's OT goal

This is not ideal defense, Jets.

NOT IDEAL!

2. Niklas Backstrom played his first game in 432 days, and won!

Not bad for a 38-year-old netminder who last played a hockey game in a Wild sweater before Sunday. Twenty-one saves against the Canadiens? No sweat.

3. Jason Chimera scored the NHL's most ridiculous goal this weekend

I can think of more reasons than not as to why this shouldn't be the NHL's top highlight of the year. Even so, it's just so crazy in a way hockey plays normally aren't that I can't stop watching.

Yes, Chimera did have this puck bounce off his head and into the goal. And yes, it most definitely counted, unlike Andrew Shaw's best efforts to bring soccer into the fold during last year's playoffs.

Impact Moment

Patrick Kane got an example of a literal impact moment on Sunday after Matt Dumba caught the Blackhawk with his head down.

After sitting out for a bit, Kane did return. Still, it will probably be the last time Kane skates through the neutral zone with his head down.

Stat of the Night

Thought you could escape brackets of March Madness in hockey? WRONG!