Phil Kessel, the snakebit Pittsburgh Penguins sniper, is raking in all sorts of support, even if he still can’t score. He has gone 16 games without netting a goal.
Tuesday night, in the second period of a 3-2 overtime win against Florida, the fans at PPG Paints Arena gave him an ovation after a good – but unsuccessful – scoring chance. Kessel apparently took it to heart. He was seen smiling on the bench afterward.
Wednesday in practice, Kessel scored against No. 1 goaltender Matt Murray. He raised his hands in celebration as his teammates cheered.
After practice, coach Mike Sullivan gave Kessel yet another vote of confidence.
“I did not notice (the fans’ ovation Tuesday), but I have since heard about it a little bit, and I just think it’s an indication of the fan support that we have,” Sullivan said. “We’re so appreciative of what they do for our players and our team. And I’m sure Phil appreciates it as well.
“He’s playing hard right now. He’s getting a lot of quality scoring chances. It’s only a matter of time, in my opinion, when the puck goes in the net for him. When you’re getting the types of looks that he’s gotten in the last handful of games, the puck has to go in. He’s just too talented of a guy. … Once that first one goes in, we’re hoping that it will go in in bunches.
“But to get the vote of confidence or the fan support like he got (Tuesday) night is terrific.”
Kessel, who has 21 goals and 66 points, addressed his goal slump in a fairly lighthearted way earlier this week, when he said it feels like he’s not going to score again this season.