Stanley Cup playoffs three stars: Furious Phil Kessel shakes off frustration, scores Game 2 winner

For most of Monday’s maddening Game 2, linemates Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin made no attempt to hide their frustration with one another, themselves, the Senators, pretty much everything and everyone.

It was fitting then that the pair of Penguins connected for the only goal late in the third period that tied the Eastern Conference finals at one game apiece.

Television cameras caught Malkin and Kessel seething on the Pittsburgh bench, at times inconsolable while venting to teammates, coaches, or in Kessel’s case, perhaps, an imaginary friend. Ottawa’s grind-it-out trap game was working wonders to dishearten the Pens’ stars into submission, a repeat of Game 1 when they hit three posts and failed to cash in on five power plays.

Driving Lyft before Game 3, Brett McCormick, 39, told a story about his Pittsburgh roots and growing up going to Penguins games. His move to Nashville 18 years ago almost exactly coincided with the Predators’ birth.

It was an NHL experiment then. Hockey’s conversion rate to a Southern fan base isn’t great elsewhere, but Nashville, unbeknownst to outsiders, was fine-tuning a brand all its own, waiting for a moment like this to flaunt what they had come up with.

“You go back then and half the arena was empty,” he said. “Now there’s barely Cheap Authentic NHL Jerseys room to move on the streets.”

The dual-fandom also means he’s a conflicted man these days.

Pressed, McCormick admitted he’s now partial to the Predators — “I root Cheap Braves Jerseys for the underdog” — even if it means being shunned by some family in Pittsburgh.

“I have people asking all the time who I’m rooting for,” he said. “Last week I told my aunt I have to go with the Preds and she said she couldn’t talk to me anymore.

“I thought she was joking, but I haven’t heard from her since.”