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Jordan Staal making it on his own

Sunday, 06.07.2009 / 1:36 PM / 2009 Stanley Cup Final: Detroit vs. Pittsburgh

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- While Jordan Staal hasn't been given much brotherly advice through five games of the Stanley Cup Final, older brother Eric did text his brother a tip prior to his shorthanded heroics in Game 4.

Eric, whose Carolina Hurricanes were eliminated by the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final, was probably wondering why he even bothered as Jordan couldn't even get that right.

"Eric sent me a text message during the day and told me to try a wraparound at some point," Jordan said. "The one I scored wasn't quite a wraparound, but he would later say it counts just as much, so it all worked out in the end anyway."

Eric converted a wraparound on Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 4 of the conference final -- won by the Penguins 4-1. But Jordan prefers to do his own thing.

He'll look back on his memorable shorthanded goal with 11:25 remaining in the second period of Game 4 with great pride, knowing he lifted the spirits of a team in dire need of a spark. But now, with the Penguins facing elimination against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS), he may have to put on an encore performance to extend his season.

"The Wings have so much firepower, it's tough to just focus on one player," Staal said. "I think the fact we were able to play so well defensively through the first four games really helped. We don't want to give them much room and we know (Pavel) Datsyuk will find ways to create offense. We have to watch out for that."

Despite the 5-0 loss to the Wings in Game 5, Staal says the Pens remain unfazed by it all. It's a lot different than it was last season when the Pens were young and inexperienced in dropping a six-game series to the Wings in the Final.

"It just seems like a lot of these guys are more comfortable and more aware of the ups and downs and how momentum works," Staal said. "We know how to push through that, and I think we learned a lot from last year."

Pittsburgh's 38-year-old forward Bill Guerin has become a huge fan of Staal since joining the club in March.

"Jordan's one of those guys who just gets it," Guerin said. "He's very professional and plays a big role for us on the ice. It's not easy for a young kid to be a team's top defensive centerman. And what's extremely difficult is the fact he's able to do it at a young age. That says a lot about him."

Staal's first career shorthanded goal in the playoffs was his first point against the Wings in 10 Stanley Cup Final games. It was also Pittsburgh's first "shortie" in a Stanley Cup Final game since Bob Errey beat Chicago's Ed Belfour in Game 2 in 1992. But Staal has made a living playing shorthanded throughout his career -- he notched seven shorthanded goals as a rookie in 2006-07.

He said the shorthanded goal he scored in Game 4 to pull Pittsburgh even 2-2 was inspiring -- not to mention needed. At the time, the Pens were trailing and killing the tail end of back-to-back Detroit power plays. Pittsburgh's Mark Eaton sent a clear up the boards that was collected by Maxime Talbot, who fed a head-man pass to Staal for a breakaway. The 20-year-old center put a forehand shot past Chris Osgood to square the game and send the Mellon Arena crowd into a frenzy.

"I guess it was the biggest of my career so far," Staal said. "It's obviously great for me, personally, but it's also nice to help out the team and provide that momentum. I don't think you can beat a Stanley Cup Final goal that changes the game like that."

During the Cup Final series, Staal has averaged 19:16 of ice time, including 2:38 with his team down a man -- the third highest total on the team behind defensemen Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill. He's also won over 46 percent of his faceoffs in the postseason on 336 draws.

For Staal, penalty killing has been a way of life since his days playing with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League. He scored two shorthanded goals in his final regular season with the Petes in 2005-06 and two more during the playoffs that season.

"In juniors, I had a lot of penalty killing and as soon as I got here, I kind of fit into that role of getting out there and killing penalties," Staal said. "I think with my reach, I'm always trying to split plays and that's big for me. It's nice to have that long extra stick for a poke check."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.


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