The Pittsburgh Penguins are not the dominant force they once were on the NHL stage. With a little over two months remaining in the regular season, the Penguins are on the outside of the playoff picture. They'll need a 36-year-old Sidney Crosby to turn back the clock a bit if they want any shot at playing beyond their 82-game regular season.

Crosby showed what he's still capable of Thursday night in a 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, spoiling the return of rookie sensation Connor Bedard. The two-time MVP scored two goals, the second being his 30th of the season. Crosby now has 12 seasons with at least 30 goals, breaking a Penguins franchise record held by Mario Lemieux since 2001.

Crosby scored 15 seconds into the game and was the best player on the ice throughout the night. His teammates and coaches noticed his game go to a different level on Thursday – albeit against a Blackhawks team that has the worst record in the NHL – and believe this is only the beginning of a resurgent run for the Penguins.

“We all believe we’re going to be a playoff team, and I know that Sid believes that,” Penguins defenseman Ryan Graves said, per Josh Yohe. “He does. Look at what he did tonight, how he played. He’s going to try to will us to the postseason.”

A tough hill to climb

Entering Friday, the Penguins are five points out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference with two games in hand over the three teams they have to jump to reach a wild card spot. Pittsburgh is currently the only NHL team with a positive goal difference who is not in a playoff spot. Its 137 goals allowed are the third-fewest in the league.

The Penguins got some bad news injury-wise this week as well, with star forward Jake Guentzel expected to miss at least four weeks with an upper-body injury he suffered in the third period of a 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Wednesday.

That could change Pittsburgh's strategy for the trade deadline as rumors have swirled all season about Guentzel's future. A winning stretch could also alter the Penguins' plans before the March 8 deadline and see them add a body or two rather than subtract.

Perhaps Guentzel's absence motivated Sidney Crosby to take his game to the next level. Being able to sustain it for two months to get the Penguins into the playoffs is another thing. Pittsburgh is set to ride its captain till the end though and live with the results. There is at least a belief that those results will be positive ones.