Phil Kessel scored on a remarkable end-to-end rush last night as the Toronto Maple Leafs downed the New Jersey Devils in the shootout. This is what a million-dollar play looks like. This is why the Leafs shell out boatloads of money to Kessel—because he can make plays like this.
Kessel gathers the puck in his defensive zone and picks up speed through the neutral zone. Recognizing that the Devils are playing their own blue line tight and that there’s a seem, Kessel hits the after burners. The result is an incredible goal that had two New Jersey players sliding in behind him, swinging their sticks at the puck in vain.
While Kessel’s play was fantastic, the crowd’s response to it was incredible. Listen to the rush in headphones if you can. Close your eyes and it sounds like a college football stadium. The roar from the Air Canada Centre is absolutely electric and deafening, and was a fitting reaction to one of the slickest goals that you’re likely to see all year.
Fortunately the goal wasn’t for naught, as the Leafs managed to beat Cory Schneider in the shootout to secure the victory. Toronto has now won for of its last five and seems to be getting on another role. They’re 11-5 on the year and currently are in second in the Atlantic Division.
For his part, Kessel is on a tear. After a slow season in 2012-13, the sniper is on fire this year. The end-to-end beauty was his 10th of the season and his 19th point in 16 games. It took the forward 29 games to hit the double-digit goal total last season, so he’s been worth every cent in 2013-14.