Nearly 200 feet away from the Red Wings' net, Phil Kessel sent a prayer which found its way through six Wings and into the only part of the empty cage which could prevent hats from hitting the ice -- the post.
Just before that full ice attempt was when Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard made his way off the ice. Simultaneously, Kessel jumped on as the fans chanted "We want Phil!"
He took the ice, lined up, found a loose puck, spun, fired the puck down the ice and watched.
Watching along with Kessel, the Penguins' crowd collectively crescendoed into a roar until the subtle ping of the post sent the puck to the corner and right back to where the puck came from by way of an icing call.
They cheered and they laughed and they groaned as the teams both lined up, but then they started to chant again. This time louder, this time more in sync.
"We want Phil! We want Phil! We want Phil!"
More specifically, the fans wanted a hat trick. Spoiler: They didn't get to see one. But, for the first time since Ryan Reaves had his name reverbarated through the arena, the crowd put together a synced effort for a player not named Matt Murray, Casey DeSmith or Tristan Jarry. That was special in its own right.
Kessel didn't get to finish off his quest for hats. Neither did Derick Brassard, who tallied his second goal of the game when he found the empty net for himself. Brassard's second essentially ended Kessel's chances, but the fans didn't give up on him.
Three times the horn sounded through the crowd. Normally that inspires a "Let's go Pens," in return, but it was modified into a "Let's go Phil," variant instead. Kessel got back out to the ice again, but he didn't get close to the opportunity he had from 200 feet.
THE DEKE IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SHOT
It's not often that a Kessel goal comes from a means outside of his wrist shot. Even when it does, it's not often it's because of Kessel's work with his hands.
Kessel's first goal came on a breakaway move after Jonathan Ericsson blew a tire in a near fall buying No. 81 a lot of space. Forehand, backhand, forehand, backhand, forehand, backhand, goal.
Nifty, and a bit prettier when you watched it unfold live. The slow motion makes the simpler deke look a little clunky, but it was too good for Howard at full speed.
Kessel did get a more traditional goal for his brand when he rocketed a wrister from the top of the slot. You've seen this kind before, though:
That's where the fun ended, though -- as has been pointed out above. Kessel couldn't get the third no matter what the crowd chanted.
SPEAKING OF CHANTS ...
Before the crowd had a chance to chant anything in support of Phil after his second goal, they supported an unlikely ally during a "let's go" song.
The Steelers, if you haven't been following, need help from the Browns to get into the playoffs. The old foursome of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland and Cincinnati each has a chance to ruin a rival's season, or at least week.
For the Steelers to make the playoffs, they must win or tie against the Bengals and the Browns must win or tie against the Ravens. Meaning Steelers and Steelers fans must root for the Browns.
Why the football chat?
Well, a "Let's go Browns," chant broke out during the game -- the first time I'd heard Pittsburgh fans chant that in my 35 years on Earth. I imagine it will be another 35 before it's heard again.
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
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