Phil Kessel’s OT goal bails out Penguins against Kings |
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Jonathan Bombulie
The Penguins’ Matt Cullen takes a shot past the Kings’ Matt Luff and puts it past goaltender Jonathan Quick in the first period Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.

Phil Kessel helped the Pittsburgh Penguins stare down another potentially ugly loss and come away with a victory.

Kessel scored with 61 seconds left in overtime to give the Penguins a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.

A deflected Evgeni Malkin pass from the slot came to Kessel at the left post, and he didn’t miss.

The Penguins have struggled to find their game on a consistent basis, but they are 8-3-3 in their last 14 games and have won four in a row at home.

The Penguins surrendered a third-period lead for the second straight home game when Alex Iafallo scored on a power-play one-timer from the right faceoff circle to make it 3-3 with 7 minutes, 30 seconds left in regulation.

Matt Murray made 38 saves in his first game since Nov. 17, having been shut down for the last month or so with a lower-body injury.

If he could have scripted how his return to the lineup would start, he might have picked something like how the first period played out. The Kings provided more in the way of quantity of shots than quality, outshooting the Penguins, 15-11, but putting together only a handful of extraordinarily dangerous chances.

Murray handled them all. Jeff Carter had two good chances on redirects, but Murray turned both aside with his pads. He also shouldered away a Michael Amadio shot from the slot after a defensive-zone turnover by the Penguins.

Murray actually was beaten once in the first period when Tyler Toffoli took a diagonal pass at the right faceoff dot and fired a shot into the top corner of the cage, but it was waved off after an offside challenge by coach Mike Sullivan.

Video replays showed Adrian Kempe entered the zone a split-second before the puck did, making Sullivan successful on four of six challenges this season, including three in a row this month.

At the other end of the ice, the Penguins gave Murray some support.

First, Matt Cullen gave the Penguins a short-handed goal for the second consecutive game.

He collected the rebound of a Bryan Rust shot in the right-wing corner, darted toward the slot and laced a shot past Jonathan Quick high to blocker side about seven minutes into the game.

The Penguins went the first 30 games of the season without a short-handed goal.

The top line combination of Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Rust combined to give the Penguins a 2-0 advantage about six minutes later.

On a set breakout, Guentzel tipped a puck from the left half-wall to Crosby in the center of the ice, setting up a two-on-one down low. Crosby fed Rust for a shot from the right wing that tipped in off Quick’s glove.

Presented an opportunity to put a boot on the last-place Kings in the second period, the Penguins failed to take advantage.

They scored a highlight-reel goal in the middle of the period.

Tanner Pearson, traded from the Kings to the Penguins last month, torched his old team with a remarkable individual effort. He stole a puck from Drew Doughty, discarded the all-star defenseman, patiently danced around a Quick poke-check and roofed a shot to make it 3-1.

The problem was, the goal was sandwiched between the Kings scoring twice.

On the first, the Kings caught the Penguins with a Jake Muzzin goal on the counter-attack. On the second, a failed clear led to a Matt Luff goal from above the left hash marks.

In the final two minutes of the period, Crosby hit a crossbar, and Pearson was stopped on a breakaway and the Penguins went into the third with the narrowest of leads.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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