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Kessel's goal lifts Penguins past Oilers for 6th in row

by Derek Van Diest /

EDMONTON -- The offseason acquisition of Phil Kessel continues to pay dividends for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Kessel scored the game-winning goal on a power play midway through the third period, lifting Pittsburgh to its sixth consecutive win, 2-1 against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on Friday.

Kessel, acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1, scored his team-leading fifth goal of the season at 9:45 of the third when his shot hit the glove of Oilers defenseman Brandon Davidson and eluded goaltender Anders Nilsson. Kessel has at least a point in five of his past six games.

"We're getting better [on the power play], we're starting to improve," Kessel said. "We had chances, but a little crisper and we'll be better."

It was the Oilers' first game without rookie Connor McDavid, who sustained a broken clavicle in a 4-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. Forward Jordan Eberle made his season debut after missing the Oilers' first 13 games with a shoulder injury.

Penguins' rookie Daniel Sprong scored his second goal of the season and goaltender Jeff Zatkoff earned his second win in as many starts, making 27 saves. Pittsburgh (9-4-0) has won nine of its past 10 games after starting the season with three consecutive losses.

Sprong was in the lineup because forward Pascal Dupuis was taken to the hospital prior to the game after experiencing symptoms that may have been related to his history of blood clots.

"I knew before the game that I was going to play, I knew in the morning skate I would be in the lineup," Sprong said. "I was pretty excited to get going and happy we got the win."

Coach Mike Johnston said Dupuis' tests came back negative.

"He will be re-evaluated in Pittsburgh," Johnston said. "We want to make sure, so he'll get checked out and won't play [Saturday] night" when the Penguins conclude a four-game road trip against the Calgary Flames.

Dupuis was able to return to Rexall Place and was in the dressing room after the game.

Defenseman Oscar Klefbom scored in the second period for Edmonton (5-9-0) and goaltender Anders Nilsson made 31 saves in his third loss of the season.

Eberle registered one shot in his first game back. He was injured Sept. 29 in a preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes.

"I knew coming in, it was going to be tough to adjust right off the bat not having played in the first 13 games," Eberle said. "But it gives me something to build on. I thought we struggled in the first and as the game went on, we got better. We had an opportunity [late in the third] on the power play too. We had a lot of chances; we just couldn't find a way."

The Penguins appeared to score the opening goal of the game at 16:17 of the first period when forward Patric Hornqvist knocked the puck into the net after Sidney Crosby took a shot that went through Nilsson and sat near the goal line. However, Oilers coach Todd McLellan used his challenge, contending the Penguins were offside gaining the zone 45 seconds prior to the goal. The review showed Hornqvist was offside entering the zone; the goal was waved off and the game clock restored to when the infraction occurred.

"Between [video coach] Miles [Fee] and [assistant] Jay [Johnson] they do a tremendous job," McLellan said. "Miles notified us immediately that he thought it was a call and Jay looked and Miles looked and it was obviously the correct one."

Klefbom gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead 45 seconds into the second period, taking a cross-ice pass from Benoit Pouliot on a rush and stepping into a shot from above the left circle that sailed past Zatkoff.

Sprong tied the game at 9:06. Penguins center Matt Cullen won a battle for the puck behind the Oilers' net and centered a pass to Sprong, who snapped a shot past Nilsson.

"Sprong came back into the lineup after two games out and I thought he played well," Johnston said. "He's the type of guy who, if he plays with the energy and plays within the offensive zone, he's going to get chances. He's a strong guy on the puck, he uses his shot well. Those are things he's got to do, especially use his shot."

With 10:30 left in the third period, David Perron drew the penalty that led to the winning goal, taking a pass in front and getting tripped by Nilsson while cutting across the front of the net. Pittsburgh capitalized 15 seconds on Kessel's deflected shot.

Edmonton didn't lack for chances in the final minutes.

Forward Nail Yakupov hit the post from the high slot with six minutes remaining. Four minutes later, rookie Leon Draisaitl beat Zatkoff with a backhander but rang the far post. Pouliot came close to banking in the tying goal from the left-wing corner with 1:26 remaining, but Zatkoff was able to keep the puck from crossing the goal line. A video review confirmed the call on the ice that the puck had not gone over the line.

"I don't want us to accept losing. But the approach to the game, the effort, the build throughout the night, because I didn't think we were real strong in the first period, the resiliency, those were all positives for us," McLellan said. "But I don't want us to acknowledge that losing is fine, because it isn't."

Edmonton begins a four-game road trip Sunday at the Chicago Blackhawks.

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