Penguins fans show support for slumping Phil Kessel with ovation
Phil Kessel has been a popular player in Pittsburgh since joining the Penguins in a 2015 trade.
On Tuesday night, fans at PPG Paints Arena showed just how much they adore the affable goal-scoring right wing with a remarkable second-period ovation.
Kessel is mired in a career-long 16-game goal drought. With each passing scoring chance that doesn’t find the back of the net, his frustration grows more and more obvious.
In the first period of a 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins, Kessel had two point-blank chances in front of goalie Roberto Luongo but could not score. He looked to the sky in exasperation.
With about eight minutes left in the second period, he parked himself at the left post and tried a difficult spinning redirection of an Evgeni Malkin pass. The puck dribbled to Luongo, who covered it for a faceoff.
As Kessel skated to the bench talking to himself, his image was shown on the arena’s video board.
The crowd responded with a rousing ovation, clearly offering support to their beleaguered favorite. Nary a boo was heard.
Captain Sidney Crosby noticed.
“I thought it was awesome, the reception and the way the fans were encouraging him out there tonight,” Crosby said. “It hasn’t been easy for him, but he continues to find ways to create chances and do things out there. For them to recognize that and stick behind him and encourage him, that’s huge and gave us a big boost.”
Kessel recorded an assist when the rebound of his shot from the right wing on a second-period power play banked off Luongo’s pads to Crosby for a goal from the slot.
Kessel had five shots on goal, running his total to 25 over the past six games.
“I just know he’s close,” Crosby said. “I know he’s going to explode here one of these games.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .