They call him Phil the Thrill. Perhaps his nickname should be changed to Phil the Net.
For the fifth time in six 82-game seasons, Toronto Maple Leafs
right-winger Phil Kessel
has reached the 30-goal plateau as he continues to assert his offensive prowess and tries to remain a top-10 scorer in the NHL for the third straight season. Kessel had 20 in the lockout-shortened 48-game 2012-13 season, which translates to 34 so it should be six years in a row.
Kessel did it courtesy of a hat trick
-- his second of the season -- in a 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators
at Air Canada Centre Saturday night. It was Toronto's sixth straight home victory, and the second consecutive game the Maple Leafs have overcome a 2-0 deficit to win.
Kessel's teammates and coach were delighted with his effort.
"Phil plays his best when he's playing loose and he's making plays out there left, right and centre so we'll just keep letting him do what he does," said Nazem Kadri.
Left-wing Joffrey Lupul also praised his teammate.
"His skating always stands out as did his shot on the second goal. You know when he's really playing well by how he's competing on pucks down low in the offensive end; turning his back and protecting the puck and he's been doing that for quite a while. It makes him really effective down there."
Coach Randy Carlyle put Kessel's efforts in simple terms.
"He's a shooter, for sure, and there are lots of shooters around the league, but with Phil, he has been classified as this one type of player and we think he's got more or an all-around ability, too, because he can distribute the puck and find people and do a lot more things than just shoot," Carlyle said.
Bozie keeps rolling
No. 1 centre Tyler Bozak
had a goal and an assist and now has 18 points in 17 games since returning from an oblique injury that sidelined him. In fact, the top line of Bozak (1-1-2), Kessel (3-1-4) and James van Riemsdyk (0-2-2) had eight points on the night.
Kadri stays hot
Centre Nazem Kadri
had two assists and now has two goals and seven points in his past four games.
Torts would not approve
You may recall a Jan. 18 when Calgary started a line of enforcers in Vancouver and Canucks coach John Tortorella went berserk
. Well, the Senators started tough guys Chris Neil and Zack Smith and the Maple Leafs responded by starting their enforcer, Colton Orr. There was a buzz in the crowd and Orr and Neil, who were lined up opposite one another, had a little chit chat, but there were no fireworks.
Neil can play, too
If Neil didn't make an impression in the first minute, he did in the last minute of the first. He took a long shot through the legs of Toronto defenceman Morgan Rielly -- that actually deflected off one of Rielly's legs and changed direction -- to give Ottawa a 1-0 lead at 19:07.
Neil also sneaked his eighth goal of the season in to make it 3-3 midway through the period; a goal hardly anybody knew went in. His shot squeaked through the pads of Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier and the goal was not discovered until the folks in the War Room at the NHL office in Toronto checked the replay. He also had an assist for a three-point night.
With the Maple Leafs trailing 2-0 in the second period, they got back into the game when two of their scoring duos hooked up. First James van Riemsdyk
made a great cross-ice pass to Kessel, who snapped it home to make it 2-1 at 13:01 and 98 seconds later Kadri crunched Ottawa defenceman Codi Ceci into the boards from behind and then passed to Lupul in front as the winger scored his 17th of the season to tie the game.
The NHL will definitely review the Kadri hit for potential supplemental discipline; most likely a fine if anything at all.
Kadri pleaded innocent to the media after the game.
"I think he turned to try to give himself a little more room and at that point I am fully committed to the hit and I just finished my check," Kadri said. "To be honest I did let up a bit."
So this is the NHL
Leafs centre Greg McKegg made his NHL debut against the Senators. The 21-year-old St. Thomas, Ont., played 35 games with the AHL Toronto Marlies this season. He has nine goals and 26 points. McKegg played six shifts for a total of 3:43 ice time and had one shot on goal and two hits.
P.S.: The Maple Leafs like to advertise the fact their AHL affiliate is in Toronto and it's just a cab ride from the minors to the NHL. McKegg was in San Antonio, Texas when he got the nod... long cab ride.
Holland on the limp
McKegg was called up from the Marlies to replace injured centre Peter Holland
who has a bad case of lace bite. He wore new skates Thursday morning and they caused the injury. Lace bite is a condition that causes a player to feel sharp pain or considerable pressure along the extensor hallucis tendon from the front of the lower leg to the base of the big toe.
Veteran referee Paul Devorski was honoured before game. The Maple Leafs-Senators game was the 1,500th of his illustrious career. In a very nice touch, the NHL arranged for Devorski to work the game with his brother, Paul, who was one of the two linesmen.
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