Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins shoots the puck against the Ottawa Senators during the third period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 15, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH -- Just one break. That's all the Penguins wanted. Just one bit of good fortune, just one goal to slide past Craig Anderson.
Just about all game, the Penguins were playing exactly how they wanted.
Defensively, they were aggressive on the forecheck, keeping the Senators from getting in close to Marc-Andre Fleury.
On offense, they were getting through the Senators' 1-3-1 trap with ease, resulting in plenty of quality shots and scoring chances.
The Penguins put 29 shots on goal, attempted 57 shots and had 30 scoring chances to the Senators' nine. None of it mattered on the scoreboard until, finally, the Penguins got some luck.
With 7:55 left in the game, Phil Kessel attempted a wrist shot. Luckily for him, it was blocked. Kessel got the puck back and sent it past Anderson, who was thrown out of position by the block.
One stroke of luck and one goal. That's what it took for the Penguins to win Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals 1-0, tying the series at one game apiece.
“It was a fortunate bounce, right? It got blocked and I just tried to get it off quick, and it went in," Kessel said. “I think it’s just probably the initial block (that threw Anderson off), and obviously for a goalie that’s always tough when it gets blocked and comes right back to the guy. I was fortunate, but I’ll take it.”
Up until the goal, no better player exemplified the way the game was heading than Kessel. TV cameras repeatedly panned to him. His frustration was apparent. He was yelling as he came off the ice. He was yelling when he was on the bench. He was yelling, it seemed, into thin air. Asking Kessel to pinpoint what he said in one spout of emotion was a tough task, given how frequent it was.
"To be honest, I think I yelled more than once tonight," Kessel said. “Obviously it’s an emotional game. There’s ups and downs and we found a way.”
Kessel's an emotional player. It's natural that he yelled, and it's something the team likes about him. But as a whole, the Penguins stayed calm and focused on making sure all their scoring chances didn't go to waste.
“We were really good with staying positive on the bench and just keeping our foot on the gas," Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel said. "We knew we were getting a lot of chances.”
It'd be hard to blame the team if their demeanor more closely resembled Kessel's after seeing all of their offensive zone time and scoring amount to nothing for the majority of the game. From in close, from out far, it didn't matter where the Penguins shots were coming from. Anderson was a brick wall, denying chance after chance and swallowing them up to prevent rebounds.
“I thought we got some pucks on net. He made a lot of big saves tonight ... we could’ve had a couple more, but he’s a good goalie," Kessel said. "You’re close and it doesn’t go in, sometimes you get frustrated, but we stuck with it.”
Through it all, the Penguins were resilient. They kept with it, knowing that they were due to score. So they kept their foot on the gas, even though they lost Justin Schultz and Bryan Rust to injuries in the first period. That was another level of resilience, as Ruhwedel, Olli Maatta and the rest of the Penguins defense came through with strong efforts in Schultz's absence.
“Schultz is a big part of our team, he logs a lot of minutes," Ruhwedel said. "We knew everybody had to step up and it had to be a solid team effort.”
Now two games into the Eastern Conference Finals, it appears that the series is going to be tight. There's only been four combined goals, and both games have been decided by one score. The Penguins' patience will constantly be tested, by both Anderson and the Senators' neutral-zone-trapping defense. But if Game 2 is any indication, the Penguins have the perseverance to get through it.
“We’re a pretty resilient group, right? We’ve been there before," Kessel said. "We’ve got guys that can step in and step up. We found a way to get it done."