After one preseason game, on behalf of everyone in Pittsburgh, we would like to thank the fans and media in Toronto for helping to create the environment that forced the Maple Leafs to trade winger Phil Kessel to the Penguins.
Yes, this was a preseason game that meant nothing for either team and considering the depth of talent the Penguins had suited up against the Carolina Hurricanes, it shouldn't surprise us the Penguins easily sailed to a 7-3 victory at Consol Energy Center and Kessel was at the heart of the excitement scoring two goals.
The tone was set early by Sidney Crosby just 17 seconds into the first period getting an opening at the blue line to draw a holding penalty against Elias Lindholm. The first power play started with Crosby, Patrick Hornqvist and Kessel down low with Evgeni Malkin on the right wall and Kris Letang at the point.
After a short 33 seconds for the first unit, Pascal Dupuis returned back to the ice for his first action since being shutdown last season due to his blood clot. Dupuis was all over the ice in the first period flying around getting some hits to get that first test physically, even taking shifts on the penalty kill.
Letang opened the scoring at 4:14 as Hornqvist and Sergei Plotnikov teamed with Malkin down low creating a large sheet of ice on the right wing side for Malkin to slide a pass to a wide open Letang for a quick shot five-hole through Cam Ward.
Just 27 seconds later, James Wisniewski (who seems to always score this way against the Penguins) fired a slap shot by Marc-Andre Fleury with Sergei Gonchar tied up with a man in front that appeared to limit Fleury's ability atop the crease.
1:22 later, Malkin took the puck up the right-wing, pulled up to allow the action to flow into the zone and allowed time and space to feed a pass to a wide open Olli Maatta to fire a slap shot that fluttered by Ward to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead.
Canes defensemen Justin Faulk would tie the game 2-2 at 13:23 as a clearing attempt by Gonchar was intercepted by Lindstrom and moved to the point to Faulk that got his own knuckle puck to get through high on Fleury as Nathan Gerbe was swiping at the puck as it went by him.
Then it started the Daniel Sprong experience.
Sprong scored his first on the power play as he quickly recognized a wide open lane from the left-wing wall to the net and attacked quickly. He fumbled the puck slightly on the deke and it appeared to throw off Ward as the puck got through behind the net.
The 18-year old rookie winger was all over the ice in the first and second period seeing some time on the power play and not looking out of place, picking up an assist on a Gonchar power play goal.
Late in the first period, Kessel scored his first just getting enough of the pickle stabber to finish the tic-tac-toe goal setup by Crosby and Chris Kunitz.
In the second period, Gonchar's slap shot on the power play made it 5-2.
Jeff Skinner would cut it to 5-3 knocking home a loose puck around the net and behind Fleury. It was the third goal against with Gonchar and Brian Dumoulin on the ice. If Gonchar sticks as the eighth defensemen, this game could be a good example of how Gonchar's value is likely limited to the power play and off-ice leader for Dumoulin and Plotnikov.
Off the draw and just seven seconds later, Crosby would take a pass from Letang on his backhand and just blow a hard shot off it over Ward far side to extend the lead to 6-3. All Ward could do was shake his head after the goal.
The chili goal came with Crosby skating up the left-wing with Kessel charging the net, Crosby slid a pass over to Kessel, giving him just enough speed on the pass to deflect the puck by backup goaltender Rasmus Tirronen.
In the third period, action slowed down to a more expected pace for a preseason game with no goals.
Opening Line-Up: Kunitz - Crosby - Kessel - Maatta - Letang - Fleury
Shots on Goal: Pens 31 Canes 31
Power Play: Pens 2/6 Canes 0/4
Plotnikov might not be a high scoring winger but for the type of play Malkin needs, his style of play reminds of former winger Ruslan Fedotenko. He showed some good patience in one sequence to wait out Tirronen but a diving Noah Hanifin deflected the puck away.