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Penguins take over first place in tight Metropolitan race

Conor Sheary's two goals in the second period boosted the Penguins to an important win over the Flyers in Philadelphia.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in first place in the Metropolitan Division again.

Tomorrow that could change, but for tonight, they’re safe and sound atop the summit.

The Penguins, now winners of three straight after a three-game losing streak, produced a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night on NBCSN, leapfrogging the Washington Capitals to lead the division by a single point.

While the Tampa Bay Lightning have a firm grasp on the Atlantic Division, and the Nashville Predators have a nice hold on the Central, and with the Vegas Golden Knights owning a stranglehold in the Pacific, there is no division race at the moment quite like the one going on in the Metropolitan.

There was a scenario, coming into Wednesday’s game between the second and third place teams in the division, where a three-way tie for atop of the division was possible at the end of the night. Philly would have had to win in overtime or a shootout for that to be the case, but it outlines just how close the race for first place has become.

Alas, that wasn’t the case.

Phil Kessel, skating in his 900th NHL game, scored his 28th of the season to open the scoring.

The Flyers would respond, scoring the next two goals -- on from Jakub Voracek, the other from Travis Konecny -- to take a 2-1 lead in the second period.

And that would be it for the Flyers, who dropped their fourth straight after a six-game winning streak.

Pittsburgh rattled off three in a row starting at the midway point of the second period, including two markers from Conor Sheary in under five minutes.

Evgeni Malkin scored the Penguins’ fourth unanswered into an empty net near the end of the game. The goal from Malkin, his 38th of the season, moved him into a tie for second in NHL goal scoring with Winnipeg Jets sniper, Patrik Laine. Both players are two behind Alex Ovechkin in the race for the Maurice Richard Trophy.

Sidney Crosby, meanwhile, registered his 1,100th NHL point after grabbing a pair of assists in the game.

Washington will have a chance to reclaim the throne on Thursday away to the Los Angeles Kings. The Capitals have two games in hand on the Penguins.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck