For Kessel, a happy 30th
He hits plateau with quick strike
Seconds after rolling over the bench in the first period to replace Chuck Kobasew, Phil Kessel saw the puck come his way.
Andrew Ference, after taking a pass from Steve Montador, flipped a wrister on goal. The puck bounced off Blake Wheeler and dribbled to an in-stride Kessel. The right wing didn't miss.
With a snap of his wrists, Kessel buried the puck behind Islanders goalie Yann Danis at 3:16 for his team-leading 30th goal. Kessel is the first Bruin to hit the 30-goal mark since Patrice Bergeron netted 31 in 2005-06.
"It's a nice milestone," said Kessel. "It's a tribute to my teammates and my linemates I've been playing with this year. They find me quite a bit. So I'm fortunate to be playing with some good hockey players this year."
Kessel, most recently playing with Marc Savard and Wheeler, has scored three goals in the last two games. Against Ottawa on Thursday, Kessel pumped in two, one against ex-Bruin goalie Alex Auld and another into an empty net.
Yesterday, Kessel also assisted on Savard's first-period goal. After taking a long-distance pass from Zdeno Chara, Kessel danced around defenseman Brendan Witt and found Savard in the slot for the center's 22d goal. Kessel finished the game with three shots in 15:22 of ice time.
"Phil is the type of player that when he's on his game with his speed, shot, and his skill level, he can certainly be a game-breaker type of player," said coach Claude Julien. "Having said that, when he doesn't compete the way he's been competing lately, he's a player that doesn't bring as much to the table.
"This is what you need from guys like Phil and from young players. To be able to develop into better players, you have to bring a complete level. Night in and night out."
Although Bylsma has turned Pittsburgh around, the Penguins also have benefited from the return of defenseman Sergei Gonchar from shoulder surgery. General manager Ray Shero also added firepower up front by acquiring Chris Kunitz from Anaheim and Bill Guerin from the Islanders. Kunitz and Guerin are riding shotgun with Sidney Crosby.
"Pittsburgh's on a pretty good roll right now," said Julien. "If we want ourselves a good challenge, we've got it."