PITTSBURGH — Phil Kessel had just one thought on his mind as he raced in on an overtime breakaway against Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
“Hopefully, I score,” the Pittsburgh star said with a laugh after scoring his 300th career goal at 1:07 of overtime to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 2-1 victory over the Jets on Thursday night.
Kessel, who also scored the overtime winner against Edmonton on Tuesday, became the 18th American-born player to reach the milestone and the second active behind Minnesota’s Zach Parise.
“I’ve played a decent amount of games in this league,” said Kessel, who played in his 843rd NHL game. “It’s nice to get 300 goals and I’m just happy to help my team win.”
Kessel stripped Patrik Laine of the puck at his own blue line and went the other way on a breakaway. Kessel, with nine points in his last seven games, snapped a wrist shot between Hellebuyck’s pads for the winner.
“What’s impressive about the goal tonight is that he was at a dead stop when he picked that pass off and he created separation from a dead stop,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “It was enough separation for him to be able to get a really good shot off.”
Conor Sheary scored his fifth for the Penguins, who won for the fifth time in six games. Pittsburgh has won seven of nine since losing the first two games of the season.
Pittsburgh also won its 17th straight home game against the Jets dating back to March 24, 2007. Overall, Pittsburgh won 17 of the last 20 meetings against the Jets, who last won in Pittsburgh, Dec. 27, 2006, when they were the Atlanta Thrashers.
Matt Murray won his seventh straight since allowing 11 goals on 65 shots in his first two appearances. Murray, who stopped 30 shots, helped Pittsburgh earn points in all eight starts this season.
Josh Morrissey scored his second for the Jets, who had won four of their previous five after being outscored 13-5 in the first two games of the season against Toronto and Calgary.
Hellebuyck, who made 34 saves, saw his four-game win streak end. He was seeking a personal best five-game streak and the team record for the longest win streak by a goaltender to begin the season.
Hellebuyck said he knew Kessel planned to shoot between his pads on the game-winner.
“I’m thinking, I’ll kick it out, but that’s not goaltending,” Hellebuyck said. “I need to drop to my butterfly and just make the save.”
Sheary opened the scoring 1:25 into the game when he re-directed Jake Guentzel’s pass between Hellebuyck’s pads.
Morrissey tied it later in the period when his shot from the point caught the stick of Penguins’ D Kris Letang and went past Murray’s glove hand.
Murray kept the game tied entering the third period, first with a sharp blocker save on Nikolaj Ehlers before back-to-back stops on Tyler Myers and Laine. He stopped Myers on a breakaway and Laine during a two-on-one with Ehlers.
Laine tried again with a wrist shot 30 seconds into the third period, but Murray made the save and a follow-up pad stop on Kyle Connor.
“It’s hard to win in this league if you don’t get a timely save, and Matt does that for us consistently,” Sullivan said. “He’s a big reason why we’ve won these close games.”
Murray also set the stage for Kessel’s overtime heroics.
“He definitely can win it, and he’s shown that,” Sullivan said. “He has a knack of scoring big goals at key times.”
NOTES: Penguins’ D Justin Schultz was placed on injured reserve after sustaining a concussion Tuesday against Edmonton. Pittsburgh recalled D Frank Corrado, but he was scratched against Winnipeg. … D Zach Trotman, who previously spent time with Boston, made his Penguins debut. … C Matt Hendricks made his debut with the Jets after missing the first seven games with a lower-body injury. He spent time with Edmonton last season. … Jets D Dimitry Kulikov played Thursday after missing two games with a lower-body injury.
Jets: Continue a stretch of four games in six nights Friday at Columbus
Penguins: Open a five-game road trip Saturday at Minnesota. Pittsburgh plays eight of the next 10 on the road.