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Kessel regains scoring lead, ‘tough to deal with’ on Olympic ice

Feb 19, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

USA forward Phil Kessel, right, reacts to his goal with teammate Ryan Kesler during the third period of men's quarterfinal hockey game against the Czech Republic in Shayba Arena at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) AP

Phil Kessel has been one of the NHL’s best players for a few years now. Since the start of 2011-12, he’s ranked third in the league in goals and second in points — yet often fails to get the credit and recognition that level of sustained success typically comes with.

The Olympics are changing that.

Kessel was hot going into this tournament and with the world paying attention, his speed and scoring touch have been on full display. He netted his tournament-tying fifth goal against the Czech Republic today and regained the Olympic lead in points with his eighth in four contests. That has everyone is singing his praises, including American captain Zach Parise.

“Phil’s playing great,” Parise said, per IIHF.com. “He was on fire in the NHL before he came here and he’s continued that in this tournament.

“He’s pushing their ‘D’ out on this big ice and it’s tough to deal with him.”

On Friday, the United States will face a Canadian team that is loaded with stars at forward…which makes this stat all the more impressive.

For a guy that failed to produce much of anything for the Americans at the ’10 Olympics in Vancouver, that’s pretty good.

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