Malkin goal

Crosby’s slump matches career-worst, but Pens win Kessel’s reunion vs. Leafs

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Phil Kessel was held off the scoresheet in his first game against Toronto since being traded Pittsburgh and Sidney Crosby has now tied his career-worst with his five-game point slump.

That wasn’t enough for the Maple Leafs though as they still suffered a 2-1 loss to the Penguins.

Evgeni Malkin played a big role in the Penguins’ victory when he collected the puck in the Maple Leafs’ zone early in the first period and carried it all the way to the other end of the ice before firing it past goalie Jonathan Bernier:

Olli Maatta made it 2-0 less than a minute later, making it look like Bernier might be yanked quickly from this start after lasting just 20:20 minutes in his last game. Tonight’s story proved to be different as Bernier calmed down and went on to make 31 saves.

The Maple Leafs were never able to reverse the damage though. This is the third time in their five-game old season that they have been held to one goal or less. In addition to no longer having Kessel’s services, Toronto was also without his former linemate Tyler Bozak (lower body) tonight.

Despite the star power its roster features, Pittsburgh has been struggling offensively as well. The Penguins haven’t scored more than two goals in a single game, but they have still managed to win their last two contests.

Pittsburgh will look to extend that streak on Tuesday against Florida while Crosby tries to avoid setting a career-low with his slump.

Bozak (lower body) won’t face former linemate Kessel

Tyler Bozak
AP Photo

Phil Kessel‘s longtime linemate Tyler Bozak will not be on the ice for his reunion against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.

Bozak, who sustained a lower-body injury during Friday’s contest has been ruled out of tonight’s game. Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock isn’t sure if his injury is serious though, per TSN’s Jonas Siegel.

Mark Arcobello will draw back into the lineup as a result. He played in Toronto’s first three games, but was scratched on Friday.

Prior to Kessel being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins during the offseason, Bozak and Kessel typically made up two-thirds of Toronto’s first line. In fact, Bozak’s total five-on-five ice time with Kessel during his tenure in Toronto was more than twice as much as the next highest forward.

Related: Kessel on playing against Leafs: ‘It’s going to be strange’

Kessel on playing against Leafs: ‘It’s going to be strange’

Phil Kessel

Phil Kessel‘s time in Toronto was memorable to say the least. While playing for the Leafs, the sniper endured some highs and lows, but mostly lows.

From a local writer complaining about his daily hot dog intake to the first round collapse in Game 7 of the 2013 playoffs against Boston, Kessel has seen and heard it all.

Being under the microscope in Toronto definitely took its toll on Kessel, but that didn’t stop him from leading the team in scoring all six years he was there.

On Saturday, Kessel will face his former team for the first time since they traded him to the Penguins last off-season.

After Pittsburgh’s morning skate, the winger did admit that he’s expecting it to be weird.

Coming into this season, many predicted that Kessel would have a breakout season playing with Sidney Crosby. Through four games that hasn’t been the case.

The 28-year-old has just one goal and one assist in his first four games with the Pens, but he’s confident he and his teammates will turn things around.

“It’s been good,” said Kessel. “We’ve been getting a lot of chances but we’re just not getting anything to go in the net so far, right? It’s going to take time to improve and we’ll get it going here.”

Tonight’s game should be interesting, but his return to the Air Canada Center on Oct. 31 will generate even more attention.

 

 

 

Video: Kessel scores his first goal with Penguins

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After being shutout in their season opener, the Pittsburgh Penguins got on the board early in the second period of tonight’s game against the Arizona Coyotes. Appropriately, it was Phil Kessel that struck first.

Rather than being the result of a fancy play with Sidney Crosby, Kessel scored by knocking the puck away from Coyotes captain Shane Doan and then firing a wrister past Mike Smith.

Acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs over the summer in a blockbuster trade, the expectation is that uniting one of the best snipers in the game with arguably the league’s best forward in Sidney Crosby will make them one of the most dangerous duos. That made the Penguins’ inability to score in its opener against Dallas on Thursday all the more jarring, even though they obviously can’t be judged based solely off of a single game.

Kessel’s goal didn’t immediately reverse Pittsburgh’s fortunes though though. While he was able to tie the game, Arizona’s Jordan Martinook retook the lead just 1:12 minutes later and that 2-1 edge persisted until the second intermission.

Oddsmaker: Crosby favorite for Hart, Kessel high on Rocket Richard list

Phil Kessel
AP Photo
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It seems online bookmaker Bovada is a big believer in the idea that Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel are going to make for a great duo. That’s at least one way of interpreting their new odds for the 2015-16 award winners.

Crosby stands out from the crowd as the favorite to win both the Hart Trophy (7/2) and Art Ross Trophy (3/2) after he fell short of both of those honors for the 2014-15 campaign. However, his projected linemate was given very favorable odds as well.

Kessel was tied with Steven Stamkos for the fourth best odds to win the Art Ross Trophy (17/2) and was third (8/1) after only Alex Ovechkin and Stamkos (5/2 each) in the Rocket Richard race. With the exception of 2014-15, when Kessel struggled along with the rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he has been a consistently great sniper for a while now. Kessel has never scored more than 37 goals in a single campaign, but he also hasn’t had a center like Crosby to work with until now.

It’s worth noting that teammate Evgeni Malkin was given 20/1 odds for either of the Art Ross and Richard Trophies, although he does have 15/1 odds for the Hart while Kessel wasn’t on that list at all.

When it comes to the Calder Trophy, it’s expected to be a battle between Connor McDavid (4/7) and Jack Eichel (4/1), with McDavid being the clear favorite. Sam Bennett (7/1), Sam Reinhart (9/1), and Max Domi (12/1) round out the top-five.

While Price isn’t the favorite to repeat as the Hart Trophy winner (10/1), he is projected to win his second straight Vezina (7/2), although Henrik Lundqvist isn’t far behind in the odds (9/2).

Drew Doughty (7/2) is the favorite to win the Norris over the last three winners; Erik Karlsson (4/1), P.K. Subban (9/2), and Duncan Keith (13/2).