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Video: Phil Kessel opens scoring against his old team, as Maple Leafs look to clinch playoff spot

How is this for a potential angle — Phil Kessel coming back to haunt the Toronto Maple Leafs, his former team, as they look to clinch a playoff spot in the final weekend of the regular season?

With a win versus the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight, the Maple Leafs are in. They would lock up a post-season berth with a young and talented core led up front by Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

Of course, the Penguins and Kessel have a chance to spoil the party.

Kessel, who played 446 regular season games for Toronto before being traded to Pittsburgh in a blockbuster — and ripped in the media — and was part of the Maple Leafs’ shocking playoff collapse in 2013, opened the scoring just 6:11 into the first period.

He deployed that terrific wrist shot past the blocker of Frederik Andersen, giving Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.

Anxious Maple Leafs fans quickly rejoiced 29 seconds later, though, as James van Riemsdyk scored to tie the game, showing tremendous hand-eye coordination and a pretty good wrist shot of his own.

The play was reviewed for a possible offside, but the goal stood.

VIDEO: Phil Kessel sets up Hornqvist with clever lob pass from behind net

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Phil Kessel has been one of the NHL’s best goal scorers for the majority of his career, but he doesn’t always get a lot of attention for his playmaking ability.

That was on display on display on Sunday afternoon against the Florida Panthers, and he needed to get a little creative to set up Patric Hornqvist for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first goal of the game.

With Kessel positioned behind the net, he quickly flipped the puck over the net to Hornqvist who was able to use his hand-eye coordination to bat the puck out of mid-air, beating James Reimer to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.

It’s the type of play you can try a hundred times and are able to perfectly pull it off maybe once. This is about as perfect as it can get.

That assist for Kessel is his 41st of the season, giving him the team lead.

 

Phil Kessel, David Backes involved in Penguins – Bruins violence

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During these polarized political times, many look to role models for inspiration to get along. That, uh … probably wouldn’t work out so well if you were trying to follow the lead of Phil Kessel and David Backes on Thursday.

OK, they probably didn’t get into a scuffle because of America – even Kessel needling the U.S. during the World Cup of Hockey, though there’s debate in that regard – but admit it; it’s fun to frame it that way.

Regardless, Thursday’s Boston Bruins – Pittsburgh Penguins game has been pretty dramatic, with Pittsburgh taking a 2-0 lead and then Boston charging back to go up 3-2 (at least temporarily).

With all apologies to the amusing lack of defense on Kessel’s goal, the violence brewing between the teams takes the cake, though.

You don’t get to see big names like Backes and Kessel go at it very often, even if this doesn’t really qualify as “fighting.”

So far, video isn’t available of their scuffle/roughing/etc., but there are GIFs. And they’re pretty entertaining.

It sure looks like Kessel started it, or at least was caught retaliating for something:

That GIF captured some of the violence, but here’s this piece of it, anyway:

As a reminder, Kessel sent out this sardonic tweet as the United States floundered at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey:

Sheesh, you’d think that Backes and Kessel could at least find common ground over dogs being cool, but apparently not.

The second period also ended with a fight between Colin Miller and Scott Wilson, with Wilson receiving misconduct and instigator penalties, so it’s been pretty heated between these two teams.

Again, video will be added when available. Here’s a clip of Miller vs. Wilson, at least:

‘Phil Kessel is a Stanley Cup champion!’ — President Obama welcomes Penguins to White House (Video)

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The Pittsburgh Penguins had their day at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Thursday, and it started in fine form.

“It is wonderful to be here, welcome to the White House,” President Barack Obama said in his opening remarks. “We are here to celebrate an extraordinary achievement — Phil Kessel is a Stanley Cup champion!”

Zing.

What followed was the usual presidential fare — some jokes, some congrats and a bunch of player references (Sidney Crosby, Matt Murray and Kessel’s HBK running mates, Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino).

Obama also made mention of Pittsburgh’s last visit after winning the Cup in 2009, when Evgeni Malkin took a bunch of pictures on his flip phone.

Pittsburgh bid farewell to the outgoing president with (another) No. 44 jersey — the Pens gave him one seven years ago as well — and a mini-Stanley Cup.

So, Phil Kessel has apparently weighed in on Team USA’s loss

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Phil Kessel‘ appears to be trending on Twitter.

Shortly after Team USA was officially eliminated from contention at the World Cup of Hockey, the prolific scoring forward made what you could easily determine to be a subtle but not-so-subtle jab on social media at the decision this spring to leave him off the roster.

(It must be noted that Kessel underwent hand surgery this summer, and he is working to return to the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup for opening night of the regular season. It’s been widely believed he was unavailable for this tournament.)

The result Tuesday opens the door to plenty of second-guessing and criticism for how this U.S. roster was built for this tournament. Did general manager Dean Lombardi and his group bring the best players to face the likes of Team Canada?

The blueprint was to build a team that was physical and gritty. But what about bringing in additional game-breakers that are dynamic point producers or strong in the puck possession game? Through two round robin games, Team USA scored twice, including a goal in what was essentially garbage time against the Canadians.

At least publicly, head coach John Tortorella, who will take his share of criticism in all this, wouldn’t change anything about the make-up of this team.

Related:

Tortorella defends Team USA’s roster, blames loss to Canada on ‘self-inflicted’ mistakes