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Kessel's OT goal lifts Penguins past Predators

by Robby Stanley

NASHVILLE -- Phil Kessel scored 41 seconds into overtime and Marc-Andre Fleury made 38 saves to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 2-1 win against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday.

Kessel broke in on an odd-man rush and shot the puck past Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne for his third goal.

"There's so much room out there," Kessel said of the 3-on-3 overtime. "If you get any breaks, there's going to be some opportunities to score goals."

Fleury made critical saves in the third period when the Predators had a barrage of chances to keep the game tied. He was able to see the puck through traffic and withstood 17 shots on goal in the third period.

"I thought early in the game, we played a strong game defensively, didn't have a lot of action early in the game," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "In the third period, he was outstanding. That seven-, eight-minute [mark], and I know they scored at the end of it, but he was phenomenal at that time.

"As I said before, I think two games ago, he looks big in the net. He's square to pucks, he's keeping pucks tight to him. He was really good tonight when we needed him, and that was the moment we needed him then. We had a lot of confidence in him back there."

The Penguins (4-4-0) won on the road for the first time this season; Nashville (6-1-1) lost at home for the first time.

"They're a good team," Fleury said. "They have a good record. This is a tough building to play in. For us, finding our first win on the road, it's good. We've just got to keep building on it."

Chris Kunitz gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 15:04 of the second period on a one-timer from above the faceoff circle. Evgeni Malkin's penalty just expired when he led a 3-on-1 rush. Malkin passed the puck back to Kunitz, who shot it past Rinne for his first goal.

"It probably doesn't feel as good as it should," Kunitz said. "I think guys know how good that team is, how good their goaltender is, how well their [defense] moves the puck and the speed they play at. To come into their rink and to play a hard-fought game, I know we were struggling to score goals, but it feels really good to get a win."

Predators forward James Neal tied the game 1-1 at 11:27 of the third period on a wrist shot from below the faceoff circle. Fleury made the original save, but Neal got to the rebound and scored his sixth goal and ninth point in the past five games.

"I didn't want him to score," Fleury said of his former teammate. "I was rattled about that. He looked good. He played a good game. That's his style. Get the shot, shoot the puck, go to the net and try to go for rebounds and stuff. I wish he didn't get that goal, but we got the win so that's more important."

Rinne made 23 saves in the loss.

Johnston moved Kessel to the second line alongside Malkin and Sergei Plotnikov, and forward Patric Hornqvist moved to the first line alongside Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis.

"I thought [Dupuis] brought a lot of energy to [Crosby's] line," Johnston said. "I liked how he played there. I thought through the first two periods, we had four lines rolling so we had good balance in our lines tonight. I liked that. I liked that we can play more four lines. When [forward Bryan Rust] went out of the game, that threw a little bit of a wrinkle in to it. We had to play a little bit shorter bench."

Rust left the game in the second period because of an undisclosed injury and did not return. Johnston did not have an update after the game.

Pittsburgh had a five-minute power play in the first period after defenseman Brian Dumoulin was boarded by Predators forward Austin Watson. Dumoulin left the game because of an apparent injury but was able to return.

Each team was 0-for-3 on the power play.

"The penalty kill was terrific," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "They were outstanding tonight. That was an important part of the game. That's early in the game. Bad things can happen in a five-minute major, and our guys were sharp to kill that right off the bat."

Nashville forward Calle Jarnkrok missed the game because of an illness. Forward Viktor Arvidsson was recalled from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League and filled Jarnkrok's role on the third line.

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