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Clutch Man-Advantage Powers Pens

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

When most hockey players talk about their power play, they talk about creating momentum.

When head coach Mike Sullivan talks about the power play, he talks about clutch scoring.

And in the Pens’ most crucial game of the postseason their power play was at its best, scoring twice in a 33-second span to en route to a 4-3 overtime win to eliminate the Washington Capitals, 4-2, and advance to their fourth Eastern Conference Final in nine years.

“(Our power play) was big,” winger Phil Kessel said. “To get a couple was a big difference.”

Entering Game 6, the Pens’ power play had only tallied once in 16 tries on the man-advantage.

But when they needed the man-advantage most, they connected to give the Pens the advantage.

The Pens received a four-minute power play when Brooks Orpik took a double minor for high-sticking Patric Hornqvist.

The Pens winger sacrificed some teeth, skin and blood, but it would not be in vain.

Kessel scored the first of the two Pens’ second-period power-play goals, which was also his second goal of the game. He took the puck and cut to the slot, weaving his way through the Caps defense and fooling goaltender Braden Holtby.

That Kessel goal, which came seconds after he fired a shot off of the post, was his fifth of the postseason and gave the Pens a 2-0 lead.

Pittsburgh extended its lead to 3-0 on the ensuing possession. Defenseman Olli Maatta sent a rising shot toward the net from above the far circle. Carl Hagelin tipped the shot back toward the ice surface and through Holtby for the tally.

Hagelin, who also had an assist for a two-point night, finished with a game-high six shots on the night.

"It's a huge two goals," Evgeni Malkin said. "We just moved the puck quicker, Phil (Kessel) did a great job using his skill. The second group too, they just shot the puck, got a (tip), it's a goal. It's an unbelievable job by the whole group. It's two groups and both did a pretty good job tonight."

Even though the Pens’ power play hadn’t been producing leading into tonight’s game, the team wasn’t worried. They knew that if they kept doing the right things and pushing the right buttons, they would be rewarded.

And when they needed it most, the power play put a dagger in the Capitals back and catapulted the Pens one step closer to their championship aspirations.

“This is a lot of fun,” Kessel said. “That’s a big win for us. I’m looking forward to next series.”

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