While an arena full of Penguin' fans was looking up to Phil Kessel, I was looking down at him. Not in a derogatory way, or not even in the I'm-taller-than-you way. Just the very literal looking-down-the-ice-as-he-dissects-his-opponent way.
Kessel was pretty obviously the story of the game. The natural hat trick, the big celebration in the corner, the speed and the snipes. I've always liked pretty goals, but it's the pretty passes when you set up the guy you know will finish that will forever be my favorite part of the game.
You know the kind: You make the a pass that makes you feel as if you're cerebrally connected with your teammate, and then you sit back and watch as he or she puts your name on the scoreboard.
That's what Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin did when they set up goals two and three for Kessel. Well, they didn't stand around, but they made passes that even the Golden Knights likely appreciated.
Take a look at this beauty from Malkin to set up the second goal:
OK, it looks like Malkin admired it a bit after all, but who wouldn't when you set up a 200 foot goal like that. Barely swings his head up to see Kessel and just knows he is there to send for a goal. I'm there in that corner, you can barely get a glimpse of my red sleeves, and you could tell from three feet away how instinctual it was instead of read-and-react. He just knew.
And how about this one from Hagelin:
The replays are all about Kessel, they're almost always about the goal scorer. But, after you watch that final replay where the Kevin Stevens fan in the stands knows it's a hat trick, watch Hagelin again. Guy takes the hit, puts a tape-to-tape beauty on a streaking Kessel and watches as he earns a place on the score sheet.
Really unbelievable stuff from both linemates. This time I was honestly thankful to be at the far end of the ice of the goals because I got to admire both passes and watch Phil do his thing.
CASEY AT THE CAGE
Casey DeSmith didn't steal this one for the Penguins. He didn't need to. But he did steal a goal or two during a flurry of chances earned by the visitors. The best? Former Penguin Ryan Reaves was streaking on a two-on-none with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
Hagelin got back on Reaves to force an early pass, but one that looked like a tap in for Bellemare. It should have, and would have, if DeSmith didn't get the right leg over. It was a pretty unbelievable save in an otherwise pretty average night of goaltending. It's not that DeSmith allowed two goals, this is a pretty high scoring NHL right now, but just that he didn't have to be great to win.
He just needed to do this and then stay square in the net to shut down the follow up chances ... and let Phil do the rest:
FLEURY, REAVES AND ... ENGO
It wasn't until after Malcolm Subban allowed his third goal, the hat trick goal, that the home fans started chanting "Fleury, Fleury," of course for Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury spent the game on the bench after playing the Capitals fewer than 24-hours prior.
That escalated into a thunderous version after Jake Guentzel's goal made it 4-1. That one stuck around a bit, and it evolved into a "We Want Fleury." If the Penguins could have added a fifth in the second, they might have just gotten that wish.
There were no such chants for Reaves or for Deryk Engelland. Both made similar marks in Pittsburgh by leaving marks on other players. Reaves certainly got attention from Cody Tucker and I on Tuesday when we went to Washington to chat with him.
What about 'Engo,' though?
One of my favorite photos on the evening goes to the former Penguin who played both forward and defense here. As the Golden Knights were waiting for a chance to get Subban off the ice and try to get the game tied up, I looked down ice and saw Engelland leaning out over his bench, watching for Subban and looking a little extra sad on the loss. He's the only player on either team looking out in this way, and he just kind of popped. I've been there, many times, and always wished I was out there to do something.
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
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