Category Archives: Phil Kessel Jersey

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Penguins forward Phil Kessel, the NHL’s seventh-highest scorer, was named NHL ‘Third Star of the Week’ after helping the Penguins win both games this weekend following their five-day bye week.

Kessel, who leads the Penguins across board in goals (20), assists (32) and points (52), contributed five points (2G-3A) in victories against Detroit (4-1) and the New York Rangers (5-2). He had three points against Detroit (1G-2A), and two more versus New York (1G-1A). Kessel had the game-winning goal in both wins.

This is the second-straight week that a Penguins player has been named ‘Third Star of the Week.’ Captain Sidney Crosby took home the same honor last Monday.

Sunday night against the Rangers, Kessel’s goal that gave the Pens the lead for good was his 20th of the season, the 10th-consecutive year he has reached the milestone. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Kessel joined Keith Tkachuk and Patrick Kane as the only American-born players all-time to score 20-plus goals for 10 or more consecutive years. That tally was also Kessel’s 700th NHL point, making him the 27th American-born player all-time to hit that mark. He and Kane are the only active Americans with 700 points.

This season, Kessel has been one of the most consistent offensive performers in the NHL. He has only gone back-to-back games without a point once the entire season – back on October 16 and 18. Right now, he is riding a four-game point streak (3G-5A-8PTS) and a three-game goal-scoring streak. If he gets a point on Wednesday night when the Penguins begin a three-game road trip in Anaheim at 10 PM ET, Kessel will compile his fourth five-game point streak of the season.

Kessel is on pace to score 36 goals, and to establish career highs in both assists (57) and points (93).

In January, Kessel has helped lead an offensive revival that has led to the Penguins winning five of their first six games this month. During that stretch, the Penguins have scored an NHL-high 24 goals. Kessel is one of four NHL players that have already hit double digits in points this month – a list that includes three Penguins: Crosby (3G-9A-12PTS); Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau (2G-9A-11PTS); Kessel (4G-6A-10PTS) and Evgeni Malkin (5G-5A-10PTS).

This season, Kessel (7th overall), Crosby (13th) and Malkin (14th) all rank among the NHL’s top-15 scorers. The Philadelphia Flyers are the only other team that has three players ranked that high.

Kessel and the Penguins currently sit in the top Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference playoff field. Pittsburgh aims to establish a season high by winning its fifth-straight game on Wednesday night.

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The Penguins welcomed seven service and adoption dogs to PPG Paints Arena on Saturday night for their contest against the Boston Bruins.

The special guest dogs and their owners were given a red carpet entrance prior to puck drop. The “Puppy Party Suite,” sponsored by Rachael Ray Nutrish, a signature brand of Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, gave pets and their owners a night to remember as they were able to watch the game from one of PPG Paints Arena’s large party suites.

“We were really excited to do something like this; what better way to mash up the two worlds,” said Samantha Bridger, PR director of Ainsworth, describing the quality of this partnership and event between the Penguins and Ainsworth. Thanks to the help of Steve Joyce and Samantha at Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, the Puppy Party Suite was a huge success.

Guests were selected through a social media nomination process with winners being chosen for their heartwarming stories of adoption and service. For instance, “Cuspie,” a Brussels Griffon, found a home with Mariana Ortiz after Cuspie was hit by a car and needed emergency surgery.

The Puppy Party Suite had its own version of the “Two-Headed Monster” as Labrador-Husky mix named “Sidney” and a Whippet, “Geno,” were in attendance. Jake Holmes rescued Sidney just hours before she was to be euthanized and decided to name her after the first goal scorer of Game 6 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Final. But after Phil Kessel notched the first goal of the game, with a primary assist from Sidney Crosby, Holmes decided Sidney was a much better namesake instead of “Phyllis.”

“I would have never imagined this, this is fantastic, this is awesome,” said Holmes when asked if he ever thought he’d see a Penguins game with Sidney.

Geno and owner John Avolio have shared a connection since they first met, as Geno ran into John’s arms when seeing him for the first time. “He’s been an awesome rescue pet ever since that day,” said Avolio. Geno is a therapy dog at multiple oncology centers and facilities for the mentally and physically-disabled, and also participates in the Pawsitive Reading Program, where he listens to children reading him stories.

Brendan Garay and his family found a terrier laying under a car trying to keep warm. Garay brought “Kali” into their home and have had the dog since. “Morgan” helped bring happiness back to Lauren Betar and her family after they lost their dog and house in a fire, while “Biscuit” was given a home by Amanda Gribble Surratt following a fire on a Pittsburgh farm that left Biscuit in an unfavorable situation. Kacie Yost gave a home to “Missy” after Missy jumped right into her arms the first time they met.

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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins’ 4-3 overtime win against the New York Islanders…

* What an entertaining final frame. After an average first two periods, the Pens had appeared to break it open with goals from Phil Kessel and Riley Sheahan just 32 seconds apart in the first half, and from there, they continued to dominate both ends of the ice. Not only did they create chances offensively, they locked it down defensively, holding the Islanders to just one shot for most of the period.

But while the Isles were on the ropes, they weren’t knocked out. They began punching back, applying pressure on the forecheck and making it difficult for the Pens to get out of their zone. They ended up scoring twice to force overtime, where Matt Hunwick played the hero to get Pittsburgh the win. The players weren’t thrilled about letting their lead go – “When you’re up two with five minutes to go we have to be able to close those games out,” Hunwick said – but they did a good job of resetting and making sure they at least got the extra point in a heated Metro Division battle.

* The Pens dominated the special teams battle in this game. They went 2-for-2 on the power play with goals from Kessel and Jake Guentzel. The biggest reason for their success? Shooting the puck. Seems simple, but it’s not always for a team this talented. “I think if we do that it gets the PK running around a little bit,” Guentzel said. Kris Letang let one go on the first power play that Guentzel got his stick on to extend his season-long point streak to five games (4G-3A-7P). Later, Letang fed a pass to Kessel that he sniped for his 14th of the year.

Meanwhile, the Pens got into some penalty trouble during the first 40 minutes, taking four over that span – three of them being those frustrating stick infractions. But the Pens’ shorthanded specialists did a tremendous job of killing all of those off with their willingess and commitment to blocking shots. When those shots did get through, Tristan Jarry made some tough stops through traffic, with net-front presence Anders Lee, one of the best in the league at screening netminders, planted directly in front of him.

* Overall, Jarry was terrific tonight. The Islanders entered tonight’s game with the NHL’s No. 2 ranked offense, featuring two of the NHL’s top-five goal scorers in Lee and John Tavares. And they had plenty of chances in all situations, but Jarry came up with some huge saves. He had one in the opening minutes on a point-blank chance from Andrew Ladd at the top of the crease and continued from there. Even when the Isles tied it up to force overtime, Jarry remained calm, kept his team in it and gave them a chance to win, which is all you can ask of your goaltender.

* Over the last couple of days, the Pens have talked about needing to make simple plays and get behind teams. They didn’t do it as often as they probably would have liked, but when they did they got rewarded with Sheahan’s goal. On the play, the Pens got the puck in deep. Isles goalie Jaroslav Halak went to play it, and Carl Hagelin was all over him. He forced a turnover that got to Sheahan in front, and he whipped it into the top corner of the net before Halak could scramble back into position. The Pens’ speed is their strength, and when they use it to their advantage they’re so difficult to play against.

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Entering Saturday’s game against the Lightning, one storyline was about how Pittsburgh’s 25th ranked penalty kill would fare against Tampa Bay’s top-ranked power play.

That talk had reversed following Pittsburgh’s 5-2 win at PPG Paints Arena.

The Penguins’ power play was the difference in the game, striking three times – with all three goals coming during 5-on-3 play. Sidney Crosby had two while Phil Kessel scored one.

“I don’t know if that’s happened before,” laughed Patric Hornqvist after the game. “When you have a two-man advantage you need to score and I think we did a really good job today. We had different looks. We shot the puck when it was there and when we got those guys on the ice at the same time, they find those seams and it looks easy for them. They did a good job.”

Two of those goals actually came on the same sequence. With 3:48 remaining in the first period, Ondrej Palat high-sticked Crosby and drew blood, earning a double minor. While he was in the box, Anton Stralman tripped Conor Sheary and joined his teammate in timeout.

The Pens went with Kris Letang and Justin Schultz on the points – “Both those two shoot the puck and I think our mindset going into the game was we have to make sure we shoot the puck and retrieve and go from there,” said Hornqvist, who joined Crosby and Kessel up top.

Letang went to take a shot and his stick broke, the puck popping free in the slot. Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi went to clear it, but before he could get to it, Hornqvist lifted his stick and stole the puck for himself. He passed it to Crosby, who fired it across to Kessel at the backdoor for the goal.

“He worked so hard and on that one goal, it was all him,” Schultz said of Hornqvist. “He created it. Second effort and he does that every night, so it’s good.”

Exactly one minute and 23 seconds later, Kessel returned the favor to Crosby. He simply put the puck on net through traffic, where Crosby was waiting at the crease. He reached out and re directed it past Lightning goalie Peter Budaj for the score.

“Phil did a good job getting up high and finding the open seams, moving the puck,” said Schultz, who earned a pair of power-play assists. “Got shots and it worked tonight.”

Crosby struck again just 4:41 into the third period, when the Penguins received their second lengthy 5-on-3. He had the puck all alone at the right faceoff dot, and sniped it far side past Budaj.

“It was a good night. A couple 5-on-3s out there, so that’s nice,” Kessel said. “We needed that win tonight.”

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As the unnamed narrator in the film Fight Club said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Pens winger Phil Kessel scored. Again. In overtime. Again. In a Pittsburgh 2-1 win. Again.

Two days after Kessel scored a breakaway game-winning goal in overtime against Edmonton for a 2-1 win, Kessel scored a breakaway game-winning goal in overtime against Winnipeg for a 2-1 win, both at PPG Paints Arena.

“Sometimes you get lucky out there,” Kessel said. “I got two breakaways in overtime and was fortunate enough to get them in.”

Kessel, who had nine shots in the contest, only had one thought going through his head as he eyed up the net behind Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck.

“Hopefully I score,” he laughed. “I’m just reading and reacting.”

Kessel did, indeed, score. But scoring is what he’s done his entire career. Kessel’s winner against Winnipeg was his 300th career goal in the NHL, an incredible accomplishment.

The Wisconsin native also became just the second American-born player to reach the 300 milestone (Zach Parise, 318).

“I’ve played a lot of games in this league,” Kessel said. “It’s nice to get 300 goals, but I’m just happy to help my team win.”

Most impressive about Kessel’s overtime goal wasn’t even the goal. It was his defensive play to intercept the puck from Jets winger Patrik Laine. And then, from a standstill, he was able to retrieve the puck and outskate the speedy Laine in a race toward the Winnipeg goal.

“He has a knack to score big goals at key times,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “What was impressive about the goal tonight was that he was at a dead stop when he picked that pass off. He created enough separation to get a really good shot off.

“That’s a testament to Phil’s work ethic throughout the course of training camp. Phil’s in as good of shape as he’s been as a Penguin. That’s a credit to him to create that separation.”

Kessel’s overtime goals have also been followed by a playful face wash from teammate Ryan Reaves. A tradition both men hope to continue.

“Every time he scores I give him a nice face wash,” Reaves joked. “I mugged him today. It was bad.”

“He’s given it to me a couple times out there,” Kessel said with a smile. “If we win that’s fine.”

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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers on Saturday at PPG Paints Arena…

* Panthers goalie James Reimer may have nightmares after this game, and one reason for that is Sidney Crosby. Crosby scored twice in this game, both coming from the side of the net and each being one of those impossible plays he makes look easy. On the first goal – which came on the power play – I saw Crosby sneak to the back door unnoticed. I saw Phil Kessel realize he was there, and wondered if he’d be able to thread that pass diagonally through the slot. I didn’t have to wonder long, as Kessel quickly made a perfect pass that Crosby whacked right into the net. On the second goal, Kris Letang floated a pass that Crosby again chipped out of mid-air, through Reimer’s pads and in. Crosby was the First Star of the game, and his hand-eye coordination should have been the Second Star.

* Reimer is also probably going to have nightmares about Patric Hornqvist. It was a typical day at the office for Hornqvist, who had a game that completely personified his style. He was in and around the crease and making life miserable for the netminder. As a result, Hornqvist got a goal that’s a perfect example of how he plays. Olli Maatta got the puck to the front of the net, where Hornqvist was of course stationed. He then dug at it until he was able to get it past Reimer. While Hornqvist was rewarded that time, he was punished shortly after when he barreled over Reimer and was sent to the box for goalie interference. Hornqvist is back to himself after missing the first three games due to injury.

* The Pens talked a lot about tightening up following their 5-4 loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday, which was one of those defense-optional, back-and-forth track meets. While they were definitely better in that regard tonight, they still have room for improvement. The Panthers had momentum for long stretches of the game, particularly at the beginning of periods, and it resulted in a lot of shots and scoring chances against. The Pens need to do a better job of handling those swings and being a team that’s difficult to play against.

* Matt Murray had a heavy workload, seeing 46 total shots. It was something the Pens had expected after the Panthers put up similar numbers in their previous few games. And it wasn’t just about the quantity of shots for Florida – they had plenty of quality scoring chances as well. Murray handled it well, coming up with a number of big saves to keep his team in the game and allow them to pull ahead. He was particularly impressive in the last minute-plus of play when Florida pulled their goalie for the extra attacker.

* The Pens spent more time in the box than they would’ve liked – Mike Sullivan said he wants his team to cut down on stick infractions – but overall I thought the penalty kill was solid. While they did allow a goal during a sequence where the Pens took two straight penalties in the second period, they also scored a goal during that time as well. Tom Kuhnhackl did particularly impressive work on the play to capitalize on a turnover in the neutral zone that he took to the net, getting taken out on his way there. Greg McKegg picked it up and sniped a backhand. It was his first goal of the season, scored against his former club. He’s been so solid for the Pens, and it was nice to see him finally get one.