In his sixth game back after missing nearly a month following surgery for testicular cancer, Kessel scored a winning goal in the shootout to lead the Boston Bruins to a 5-4 victory over Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night. “He is a great player – fast and has a great shot,” Crosby said. “I know he’s been through a lot of adversity, so that says a lot about his character.”
Hannu Toivonen recovered from a shaky first two periods to record his first win in three months for the Bruins. Toivonen, whose last win came on Oct. 19 against Calgary, allowed four goals on 21 shots through two periods before saving 12 shots in the third to force overtime.
After allowing Erik Christensen to score on Pittsburgh’s first shootout attempt, Toivonen turned back Evgeni Malkin, Crosby and Sergei Gonchar to make way for Kessel.
“I thought it was the right moment, the stage was set,” Boston coach Dave Lewis said. “I had a lot of choices, so I can’t take credit.”
Kessel faked left and went right to beat Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and lead the Bruins to just their third win in 10 games.
Kessel, the fifth pick of the 2006 NHL draft, also scored the game-winner in a 4-3 shootout win over Tampa Bay on Nov. 30. He also had two goals in Boston’s 6-3 loss at Buffalo on Wednesday night.
The Bruins overcame a two-goal game from Malkin, who leads NHL rookies in goals and points, to climb back from deficits of 2-0 and 4-3 and beat the Penguins for the ninth straight time. Pittsburgh’s last win against Boston came on Nov. 1, 2003, and its last win in Boston was Feb. 8, 2003.
Glen Murray, Brad Stuart and Marco Sturm also scored in regulation for Boston.
“We don’t have any Malkins, Crosbys or (Alexander) Ovechkins that are going to win games by themselves,” Murray said. “It has to be a team effort.”
Jordan Staal had a goal and an assist and Ryan Malone also scored for the Penguins.
Pittsburgh led 4-3 midway through the third period, but was unable to capitalize on a five-on-three power play that lasted one minute, 54 seconds. Toivonen survived a Pittsburgh flurry, and Crosby, the NHL’s leading scorer, hit the top post on the Penguins’ best scoring chance during the power play.
“As a player you recognize that this is one of the moments that’s going to decide the hockey game,” Toivonen said. “It was a tremendous boost for us because if they went ahead 5-3, the game would have been over.”
Following the Pittsburgh advantage, Savard rebounded a Murray shot and beat an out-of-place Fleury to the right to tie it at four 14:38 into the period.
Fleury saved 40 shots, including nine in overtime, but he saved just 2-of-4 attempts in the shootout to suffer the loss.
“It’s always tough to give up two points against a team you’re fighting with,” Fleury said. “They had some lucky bounces. It’s tough to loose a shootout.”
Notes: Neither team committed a penalty in the first period. … Malone is one point away from 100 for his career. … Boston C Wayne Primeau missed his second game with a shoulder injury. … Savard has recorded a point in five straight games.