PITTSBURGH — The Penguins most famous two-time Stanley Cup champion Phil Kessel had a homecoming of sorts Friday night when his new team the Arizona Coyotes played his former team the Pittsburgh Penguins, for the first time since the Penguins traded Kessel to Arizona in June.
Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry stole the show for his second consecutive shutout and the Penguins won 2-0. The night however will be remembered by many as the return of Kessel. Signs adorned the glass in pregame warmups and the Pittsburgh crowd gave a sustained ovation during Kessel’s video tribute in the first period.
Kessel played four seasons with the Penguins after being acquired on July 1, 2015. He won a pair of Stanley Cups, spawned countless memes and even trolled his critics by filling the Stanley Cup bowl with hot dogs. Kessel was singled out for chirping by then-President Barack Obama as the “two-time Stanley Cup champion,” in 2017.
Before the game, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin skated along the red line to give his former linemate a subtle fist bump before each returned to their activities.
“I love the city and I love (the fans). They treat me great here,” Kessel said.
This season, Kessel has 17 points in 32 games. Arizona head coach Rick Tocchet, also formerly of the Penguins, has challenged Kessel to become a leader this season. Arizona is in first place in the Pacific Division, which is the latest in any season since they won the division eight years ago.
Friday night, Phil Kessel played over 21 minutes including over seven minutes on the power play, registered three shots and a pair of missed shots. Visually, he was the best Arizona player and their biggest offensive threat. Kessel forced Jarry to make a pair of toe saves towards the post.