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Kessel's late tally, Fleury's goaltending lead Penguins to 1-0 win over Senators

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Phil Kessel scored with 6:55 remaining, Marc-Andre Fleury recorded 23 saves for his second shutout in three games and the undermanned Penguins evened the Eastern Conference Finals with a 1-0 win over Ottawa on Monday.

With 6:55 left in the third period, Phil Kessel found what everybody was looking for.

The final piece of the puzzle.

In an exacerbating game filled with missed opportunities and empty possessions, #81 declared enough was enough, as the winger corralled his own rebound off a one-timer, then rewound and ripped a puck past Craig Anderson, giving Pittsburgh the lone goal it would need to secure a 1-0 victory in Game two of the Eastern Conference Finals Monday night at PPG Paints Arena.

The Penguins put 29 shots on the Sens’ hot netminder Anderson, yet only one served as the most critical to this point of a series that is now tied 1-1, and heading north of the border.

“It was a fortunate bounce,” said Kessel about his sixth goal of the playoffs.  “It got blocked, and I just tried to get it off quick and it went in.  Like I said, it was fortunate, but I’ll take it.”

Kessel talked about the frustrations he and his teammates were physically showing during the game due, in large part to a 30-9 difference in scoring opportunities, which yielded empty results for nearly 53 minutes of hockey.

“We had a lot of chances, right?  Obviously, it’s an emotional game,” Kessel implored.  “There’s ups and downs, and you know, we found a way.”

“It tells me that he’s invested.  I love that about the guy,” said Coach Mike Sullivan when asked about Kessel’s colorful, but productive attitude in Monday’s game.  “I think our players get a kick out of it.  He’s a vocal guy, he’s an emotional guy and he wants to win.  For me, that is all a part of the team process and it galvanizes our group.”

The ailing Penguins needed a rallying cry, as both Justin Schultz and Bryan Rust—who was clobbered on a kick return block-esque hit thrown by Dion Phaneuf—left the game with apparent injuries and did not return.  Both Patric Hornqvist and Trevor Daley did not dress for the game, which left the squad shallow in the cupboard, including a working wore of just five defensemen.

“We worked with what we had, and I thought we did a better job tonight,” said Ron Hainsey, who finished +1 in 24:49 of ice time.  “Our forwards had a lot of time where they dug the puck out of the corner and created some space, and that was when we were able to do a little bit more as far as jumping down.  It was a good team effort tonight.”

“We knew what to expect from them tonight,” said Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped all 23 Ottawa shots, securing his 10th career postseason shutout.  “We stuck with it, we played a better game, and tonight we had the puck so much and we didn’t give them much.  We controlled the play from start to finish.”

The Pens’ struggles in the power play department continued, as the squad went 0 for 2, but improved dramatically in the faceoff category, where they won 35 of 58, while controlling the puck and tempo in a wire-to-wire fashion.

“I thought it was a pretty solid effort start to finish,” said Sullivan.  “We got to play a patient game and take what is given to us out there.  When we have opportunities to get pucks to the net we have to get them there.  I think our intent was to look to shoot the puck a little bit more.  I thought it was a real diligent effort on our part.”

The Penguins will look to carry momentum into Ottawa, where they will face the Senators in a Game three matchup Wednesday night.  Puck is set to drop at 8 PM.

Notes—Fleury surpassed Henrik Lundqvist for most career postseason wins among active goaltenders with 62.  Chris Kunitz also made history, as the veteran winger dressed for 150th career playoff game, becoming just the 88th player in NHL history to accomplish that feat.

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