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Emotional Kessel nets winner for Pens

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

There are a lot of cameras filming the Penguins' bench during games - "too many," as head coach Mike Sullivan joked afterward.

And one of them happened to capture winger Phil Kessel animatedly yelling and gesturing on the bench during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final on Monday at PPG Paints Arena.

"It's an emotional game out there," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "Guys are heated. They're heated for all the right reasons, because they're invested. They want to win. Do we have some exchanges on the bench? Sure we do. And we encourage it. Because I think it helps our game.

"Just because a guy gets a little bit emotional on the bench, for me, I think it helps our overall team game. I think progress is made. We call it a man's argument. That's the way it is. I think lines go back and forth and talk to one another. I think it brings juice to the bench and Phil's an emotional guy."

While that may have been the first time fans have seen Kessel that fired up, his teammates said he's actually like that every game.  

"Phil is always yelling about something," said Chris Kunitz, who was next to Kessel and couldn't keep the smile off his face. "He is a competitive guy. He wants the puck at all times. It is something for an offensive guy to understand, that there are certain areas on the ice that we can get the puck to him and other areas that you have to almost give up on a puck and put it deep. It is an area of feeling it out - they are trying to do their best out there, so we need to communicate the best we can."

It wasn't due to frustration. It's just part of a normal game for Kessel.

"Just playing," Kessel smiled. "We had a lot of chances. Obviously, it is an emotional game. There are ups and downs and we found a way."

And the best part about it all is that the players and coach absolutely love it.

"It tells me that he's invested. I love that about the guy," Sullivan said. "He's always like that. I think our players get a kick out of him, quite honestly. And so he's a guy who's a vocal guy, he's an emotional guy, and he's all in. He wants to win and so when he comes back to the bench, if he wanted a puck or he was open, he lets a player know - hey, give it to me. I don't think there's anything wrong with that."

If Kessel let Evgeni Malkin know that he wanted the puck, then his linemate listened. Malkin set up Kessel for the game-winner - his sixth of the playoffs - with 6:55 left in regulation, which turned out to be all the Pens needed to get the win.

From the blue line, Malkin hit Kessel with a pass as he entered the offensive zone. Kessel's initial shot was blocked, but he was able to recover the puck and whipped it past Sens goalie Craig Anderson.

"It was a fortunate bounce and I tried to get it off quick and it went in," Kessel said. "For a goalie that's tough when you block and it comes right back to a guy. I was fortunate, but I will take it."

And with it, the Pens take a tied series to Ottawa.

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