Kessel, Penguins break through vs. Senators in Game 2 win

PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 15: Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his third period goal against the Ottawa Senators in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG Paints Arena on May 15, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel seemed upset for parts of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators.

Television cameras often caught Kessel yelling around his team’s bench as Ottawa turned away Pittsburgh’s attack for a majority of the game. Eventually, Kessel channeled his anger at the Senators and scored the game-winner in a 1-0 victory that tied the series at 1-1.

Kessel’s goal came at the 13:05 mark of the third period. His initial shot was blocked by Senators forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau before Kessel buried a second opportunity.

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“He’s got a good shot. It’s quick. It comes off the stick quick. It can take corners, you know,” Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said of Kessel. “I think the goal tonight is just two shots in a row pretty quickly. It’s come faster than that, and that’s why he was able to score.”

Throughout the game the Penguins carried the play and eventually outshot the Senators 29-23. They also attempted 57 shots to the Senators 35. Still, the Penguins couldn’t score, which led to frustration. Kessel’s issues often seemed to be the most visible with the broadcast pointing out him yelling at coaches and teammates.

“You know obviously it’s a tight game and there is a lot of emotion. It’s the third-round and we want to win,” Kessel said to Sportsnet after the game when asked about his outbursts.

A lot of Pittsburgh’s scoring troubles had to do with Senators goaltender Craig Anderson, who stifled the Penguins’ offense. He made several excellent saves on Pittsburgh pushes, including two chances on Evgeni Malkin in the slot in the first period.

In the second period, he stopped a wide open Scott Wilson from scoring in front of the net.

For the most part the Penguins tried not to get discouraged in hopes that at some point they would finally break through.

“I think it was just the patience, showing up for 60 minutes. We knew what to expect from them, and we stuck with it. We kept playing our game,” Fleury said. “Everybody talks about how good of a defense they are, but tonight we had the puck so much, and we didn’t give them much. I thought we controlled the play from start to finish.”

Ottawa played a physical game, but ultimately couldn’t generate much on Fleury. The only time Ottawa seemed to consistently break through the Penguins’ defense came late in the third period when the Senators had their net empty and were pushing for a goal. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, Fleury was up to the task and picked up his second shutout of the postseason.

“They’ve got some really good players that turned it on, and they were hard to manage,” Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said. “I thought we didn’t manage the puck well on our breakouts at all. We gave the puck away a lot. We threw the puck away, and it created some momentum in our zone for the opponent.”

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The Penguins also had to deal with injuries to key players in the contest. Pittsburgh defenseman Justin Schultz exited the game midway through the second period after he was crunched into the boards by Senators forward Mike Hoffman.

Pittsburgh lost forward Bryan Rust five minutes into the game after Rust was leveled by Senators defenseman Dion Phaneuf.

Sullivan did not have an update on the two after the game.

“I haven’t had an opportunity to get to our medical staff. But we’ll probably have more information for you moving forward,” he said.

Though the Senators lost, they still left Pittsburgh with a split in the series. Game 3 is at Ottawa on Wednesday.

Said Boucher, “I think, when you look at the two games, we played five good periods out of six, and the third period cost us the game tonight.”

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