NEWARK, N.J. — There are some memories in life which can't be replaced. Your first kiss, for example. Or, if you're really cool, every time you saw Fast and Furious in the theaters.
Right up there with those milestone memories: Where were you when you saw Phil Kessel punch another human being with his bare fist?
I was right here at the Prudential Center, and this memory will travel with me always.
Kessel can get feisty. I don't want to discredit him here, in any way. He's aggressive with the stick, and he has a serious retaliatory gene. But, that's obviously not what he's known for or what gets him paid. The paycheck more or less rides and dies with the ability to snipe glove side while streaking down the right wing.
The guy scored a goal on the night. Not a Kessel goal, but a goal. It was the Penguins' only until the third period, and he clearly wanted to spark his team. This wasn't the kind of spark you get from a Ryan Reaves bout, though — a classic hockey clash. This looked like a fed-up-with-being-harassed-and-wants-to-score-some-dang-goals kind of thing.
This was the kind of fight that only gets a star four minutes in the box, but gets the team to notice. Just as Evgeni Malkin did:
But, how did it start? This was asked of me on Twitter and on the live file during the game. People were confused why Kessel picked up an extra 2:00 in penalties. A guy like Kessel doesn't just decide to drop
gloves a single glove and throw punches with the other. It started as the sticks got a little loose with Brett Seney in the neutral zone.
Seney got Kessel with the stick and Kessel decided to retaliate with an escalation to normal stick play and go for a 'cup check' on Seney:
That's a lot of leverage and a pretty big no-no from Kessel. It's a little easier to see why he got 4:00 in penalties while Seney got out after 2:00.
Kessel needed to take advantage of a pretty wild puck to get the Penguins on the score sheet. To score again, it took Sidney Crosby taking out Keith Kinkaid and making room for Jake Guentzel. Dejan Kovacevic discussed this further in The Play segment of the Game Report, but I thought I'd share a couple favorite photos from that goal.
First up, Crosby vs. Kinkaid:
Crosby on the rush, lowers a shoulder, gets a chance, has a defender blow out a tire, takes out Kinkaid and Guentzel follow up to score:
I shot the first two periods from an elevated position and got down into the zamboni door area in perfect time for this goal. These two photos are really good examples for why shooting from above isn't always the best decision and how shooting from ice level can truly be more dynamic.
Crosby and Malkin were on the ice late in the game, working the Devils' end. The lineup was more like a power play, and the Penguins thought they might even get one. The puck went over the glass, and suddenly the Penguins' stars stopped play and threw their arms up to suggest they should have a man advantage:
The officiating crew convened to talk about it, but it was determined the puck hit the glass. The Penguins wouldn't get the man advantage in the traditional sense, but they would in a different way. They took a time out, got the ideal six on the ice and readied for a final attack.
The Penguins couldn't tie the game. They forced icing calls, got chances and shot into legs, but couldn't tie the game.
At some point, a player just can't push through anymore. It doesn't matter how many times the opponent ices the puck. Chasing the puck, pushing for a goal ... these things are exhausting, and multiple players on the ice spent time with their hands on knees or sucking wind as they say.
First, I noticed Malkin. The Devils iced the puck and No. 71 drifted through the offensive zone, his hands on his waist, leaning forward and supporting himself with his stick. He was gassed:
Then, I noticed Taylor Hall. After the Devils iced the puck, Hall drifted past my hole in the corner blowing a deep breath past his lips. He too was gassed:
Hall found something extra in him and was able to beat Malkin to the puck on his empty net goal. The crowd chanted "MVP, MVP" as he shook hands with teammates on the ice and along the bench. I know that Malkin didn't have any legs left, but it was pretty unreal to see just how quick an exhausted Hall could be in that moment.
As good as Malkin is, he can't be on the ice forever. And as good as Hall is, well ... he might just be able to be — at least against the Penguins.
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
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