The Toronto Maple Leafs did everything right on Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but ended up with only one point after falling in a shootout. The Maple Leafs got a three-point night from Phil Kessel and three assists from Dion Phaneuf and also saw Matt Frattin make a contribution in his first game back from injury. Goaltender James Reimer made 37 saves while the penalty kill was a perfect 4-for-4 and the offense added two power play goals. On any other night that might have been enough, but the Penguins are playing like one of the best teams in the NHL at the moment.
The three-point night from Kessel was his second in three games and is a great sign for Toronto moving forward. He now has three goals in four games and seven goals and 23 points for the season. Kessel scored a goal on the power play in Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the Ottawa Senators but was held scoreless in Thursday night’s game against his former team, the Boston Bruins. Both of his assists against the Penguins were on the power play and the goal he scored ended up being the one that forced overtime – a true clutch performance from one of the team’s leaders. Kessel now sits just two points behind Nazem Kadri for the team lead in scoring, which is exactly where a player of his caliber should be at this point in the season.
Last season saw Kessel net a career-best 37 goals and 82 points, and with his current pace he has a good chance to be a point-per-game player for the Maple Leafs for a second consecutive season. With his team looking like a playoff contender, it has been great for Maple Leafs fans to see Kessel elevate his game when the team needs it the most.