Phil Kessel was piling up points and Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith was piling up the highlight reel saves. Kessel scored one goal and set up two others as DeSmith was sparkling in the second period. The Penguins won their sixth straight as they held on to beat the Minnesota Wild 3-2 at the Xcel Energy Center.
The Penguins power play continued to flex its Arnold Schwarzenegger-type muscle. The man-advantage added a first-period tally to raise their consecutive conversions to five straight and seven of their last eight. Monday night, it was a think of beauty. Defenseman Kris Letang walked the blue line and faked a shot which opened up Phil Kessel in the right wing circle. However, Kessel only appeared to shoot.
Kessel fooled everyone and snapped a pass across the slot to Sidney Crosby (18), who one-timed it into the yawning cage.
“I don’t know how he got it through. It was an unbelievable pass,” said Crosby.
Kessel flipped roles and was the recipient from Crosby instead of the provider as the Penguins scored in the final seconds of the first period. Zach Aston-Reese swarmed Minnesota defenseman Jared Spurgeon to create a turnover. Crosby’s immediate shot caromed off the back boards to Kessel, who was crashing the zone. Kessel’s (17) centering pass was deflected into the net by Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter.
Kessel returned to serving apples in the middle of the second period. From the slot, Kessel dished to a streaking Riley Sheahan on the right wing. Sheahan blistered the wrist shot past Minnesota Devan Dubnyk.
“He seems to be the one doing the dishin’, so it’s just getting him the puck,” Crosby said. “He’s making some great plays.”
DeSmith was the star of the second period. He made no less than three remarkable saves. He robbed Eric Staal on a point-blank one-timer, Jason Zucker with a cat-quick right pad save and DeSmith stuffed Jordan Greenway on a two-on-one.
“I thought the controlled the game in a lot of the second period and Casey was there to make a few real key saves which allowed us to keep our lead,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said.
Minnesota made the Penguins sweat, with continued puck domination in the third period. Late in the third period and Minnesota forward Zach Parise (17) darted past Crosby from the wall to the slot and whipped the past DeSmith.
Minnesota center Mikko Koivu scored the first goal of the game. Koivu (5) took advantage of the Penguins sagging zone coverage was uncontested in the slot.
DeSmith stopped 30 of 32 shots. Kessel had three points and Crosby had two points (1g, 1a).