Phil Kessel on Monday scored the only goal as the Pittsburgh Penguins won a tense battle with the Ottawa Senators 1-0 to square their best-of-seven series.
Kessel rifled his shot past Craig Anderson’s left pad with 6 minutes, 55 seconds left in the third quarter to settle an attritional game at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Ottawa had won Saturday’s opener 2-1 to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
However, Kessel — who was seen gesticulating wildly to his teammates throughout the game — ended a three-game scoring drought to make it 1-1 heading into Game 3 in Ottawa today.
Pittsburgh were indebted to a superb display from Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 23 saves to record his second clean sheet in three games.
Anderson made 28 saves for Ottawa, but could do nothing about Kessel’s well-struck winner.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan paid tribute to his team’s versatility after the victory.
“What I love about this group of players is we can win different ways,” Sullivan said. “We have some talented guys, but we don’t have to win a game 7-6. We can win a game 1-0, just like we did tonight, as long as we make sure that we embrace that challenge.”
“Most importantly, we’re a team that doesn’t beat itself. We make sure that we stay focused. We take what the game gives us out there,” he added.
Sullivan was unfazed by Kessel’s wild demeanor on the bench.
“It tells me he’s invested. Like, I love that about the guy. He’s always like that,” Sullivan said. “I think our players get a kick out of him, quite honestly. He’s a vocal guy. He’s an emotional guy, and he’s all in. He wants to win.”
“So when he comes back to the bench, if he thinks he wanted a puck or he was open, he lets a player know. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” he added.
The win came at a cost for Pittsburgh, who saw both right wing Bryan Rust and Justin Schultz leave the game early with apparent injuries.
Rust headed to the locker room after a crunching hit from Dion Phaneuf in the first period, while Schultz was injured after crashing into the boards following contact with Mike Hoffman.
Sullivan was unable to provide an injury update after the game.
“I haven’t had an opportunity to get to our medical staff,” he said.
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