Phil Kessel as much as anybody, knows how he can help his team.

, Stanley Cup champion, playoff warrior, and now forever more seen in a different light.

With the Sabres leading 4-3 in the third period, Phil Kessel scored for the fourth consecutive game to tie it. Evgeni Malkin sent a cross-ice pass to Kessel, who dropped to one knee and one-timed a shot past Robin Lehner with 6:11 remaining in the period.

Kessel, as much as anybody, knows how he can help his team. He can change the course of the game when the puck is on his stick along the half-wall on the power play. He has a shot that can alter the outcome of a series in the blink of an eye, as he did with his game-winning goal in the third period against the Ottawa Senators on Monday that evened their series at one win each.

Penguins #81 Phil Kessel Gold 2017 Stadium Series Stitched NHL Jersey
Penguins #81 Phil Kessel Gold 2017 Stadium Series Stitched NHL Jersey

One has to imagine that a strong finish to the end of the regular season and a good playoff showing for the Penguins, if the Pens end up qualifying for the postseason, will see Kessel among the final four forwards named on June 1. But it’s far from a lock. The problem facing Kessel, a right-handed shot, is that the U.S. has a plethora of quality wingers hoping for a spot on this team and many of them are also right-handed shots, such as Kyle Okposo of the New York Islanders and Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators who were not among the first 16, either. Among the forwards already named Blake Wheeler, T.J. Oshie and the league’s leading scorer Patrick Kane are right-hand shots.

“He deserves a lot of the credit, starting with the Phil Kessel trade,” Lemieux said. “That was a big piece. You saw how he played in the playoffs, just an amazing competitor.” But there is also no Cup for the Penguins without the HBK line’s contributions, Bonino between Kessel and Carl Hagelin an incredible force all spring long.

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The Penguins have struggled with possession this postseason, but around the time Kessel finally broke the scoreless tie, the Penguins were controlling 64 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, according to NaturalStatTrick.com. Forwards Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin are among the League’s best in power-play points, and Schultz should continue to benefit from their company; he has three PPP in 14 games after 20 PPP in 78 games last season.

Sometimes it looks like he’s searching for an escape. Ask Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel a question, and wholesale¬†nfl jerseys¬†and often he exhales. He looks over his shoulder, maybe for an exit, maybe for a Penguins staffer to break up the scrum. Then he answers in a way that suggests he just wants to get to the next question.

To fully comprehend why it was perfectly OK that Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel was yelling at teammates, at himself, at anyone who would listen after he returned to the bench after each shift in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, you need to understand his motives.

Both Thornton and Kessel have been the subject of trade rumors this season. Although Thornton has a full no-move clause, one that Wilson insisted he has never asked him to waive, Kessel does not have complete control over his fate. So when Phaneuf rode Kessel into the boards and the two exchanged a few whacks in Game 3, Moss got a kick out of it because he saw two guys as competitive as any he knows going at it.

Credit goes to Sullivan and the way he’s used Kessel since he took over the Penguins. He and Kessel have had many closed-door sessions debating how he wants the talented winger to play. They’ve found a level of communication that has worked for the two of them, something that wasn’t always been the case with Kessel and past coaches.

A lack of finish hasn’t only affected Crosby this season. With the exception of forwards Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin, who are tied for the team lead with seven goals each, Penguins forwards have struggled to produce even-strength chances. If Kessel continues his strong play down the stretch and the Penguins enjoy playoff success with Kessel as a contributor, perhaps he’s among the final seven named on June 1. A lack of finish hasn’t only affected Crosby this season. With the exception of forwards Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin, who are tied for the team lead with seven goals each, Penguins forwards have struggled to produce even-strength chances.