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Talbot delivers for Penguins as goal scorer and cut-up

by Shawn P. Roarke
PITTSBURGH -- Nothing seems to bother Max Talbot.

Maybe that's why he sits next to Sidney Crosby in the Penguins' dressing room at Mellon Arena. It takes a special type of player to handle the rigors of sitting next to the most-famous player in hockey.

Thursday morning, after the morning skate, Talbot couldn't get to his stall, blocked by a phalanx of media, including one intrepid cameraman who decided standing on top of Talbot's seat would provide a perfect aerial view of the Crosby scrum.

Talbot just stood on the periphery of the madness, cutting up teammates as they passed and joking with members of the media, until the Crosby caucus was broken up by the PR staff. Then, Talbot calmly set down and went about his business, the smile he perpetually wears never leaving his now-bearded face.

"Yeah, off the ice, you know, in the room, he's a guy who keeps things pretty loose," Crosby said. (He) brings a lot of energy to a room. You know, he's been like that since he got here, and he's felt comfortable. It's nice to have that."

It's also nice for the Penguins to have Talbot on the ice, as the 25-year old has proven throughout this Stanley Cup Playoff run.

Talbot had two goals Tuesday in Game 3, scoring the game-opening goal and the empty-netter in a 4-2 win that saved his team's season from officially going on life support. In Game 4, he had the primary assist on Jordan Staal's shorthanded goal early in the second period that started a three-goal uprising that carried the Penguins to a 4-2 victory in the game and a 2-2 deadlock in the best-of-seven series.

Game 5 is Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC, RDS) at Joe Louis Arena and you can bet that Talbot will take the ice believing he can be the difference maker for his club.

Talbot has six goals this postseason and almost all have been of the clutch variety. Last spring, he scored a goal in the last second of Game 5, against these same Red Wings, to force overtime. Pittsburgh won in the third overtime, forcing a Game 6 in Pittsburgh before finally succumbing to Detroit.

"On the ice, he's been known to score big goals -- not only in the NHL but throughout his whole career," said Crosby, who also watched Talbot work his magic when both were in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as teenagers. "I played junior against him, and he was a big-game player. He was always known for that in junior, and he's brought that to the NHL."

Talbot played junior hockey for the Hull Olympiques and was the driving force in a pair of championship seasons. In 2003, Talbot scored 44 points in 20 playoff games to win the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the MVP of the QMJHL playoffs. The next season, Talbot had a dozen goals and 27 points in just 15 games to repeat as the Guy Lafleur Trophy winner -- only the second player to accomplish that feat since the trophy's inception in 1978.

Not surprisingly, Talbot is very proud of his winning pedigree, which now includes playing an integral role in getting the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Final. This spring, he is playing on a line with Evgeni Malkin and is counted upon more heavily than ever before.

"You know, back in junior, I won two championships and (they were) great years," Talbot said Wednesday. "Now, I just feel lucky to be on the ice and getting those chances. You know, I feel lucky to be on the ice with great players -- playing with Geno, being in those situations.

"I love the challenge, I love being there. And it's definitely fun. It's great for a guy like me to be there, you know, and I just try to make the best of it."

Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Final GearPascal Dupuis, who sits on Talbot's left in the Penguins' dressing room, believes Talbot performs at his best when the pressure is at its height."

"He's the kind of guy that when the pressure is on, he raises his game to another level and that is good for our team," Dupuis told

"He's one of those guys that even when the pressure is on, he's the same guy -- pressure or no pressure. But, I think he has shown in the past, when there is pressure, he is going to raise his game."

Many are surprised that so much faith has been placed in Talbot by the Penguins, who drafted him in the eighth round, No. 234, in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Despite his scoring production in juniors -- 109 goals, 299 points -- the knock on Talbot was that he did not have the size or the proper scoring skills to find success in the NHL.

Heck, his own center, Malkin, regularly jokes that Talbot has bad hands and can only score into open nets.

"Yeah, off the ice, you know, in the room, he's a guy who keeps things pretty loose. (He) brings a lot of energy to a room. You know, he's been like that since he got here, and he's felt comfortable. It's nice to have that." -- Sidney Crosby on teammate Maxime Talbot
But, Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma knows better. Bylsma scored just 19 goals in a journeyman NHL career that lasted 429 games, spread across almost a decade. Bylsma's entire NHL career was based upon hard work and determination -- two skills that he believes make Talbot the player he is.

"He's a determined guy who lays it on the line," Bylsma said. "He will scrap and claw and continue to do that over and over again. (He) doesn't get deterred by the situation; doesn't get deterred by how much ice time he does or doesn't get. He's out there, scratching and clawing for opportunities.

"That means he's going to the dirty areas. That means he's battling the guy next to him, who is trying to prevent him from doing that. I think that's why, in situations like this, he gets in those opportunities that allow him to get the big goal. That's his strength. It may not be his hands, but it's his determination, and his will, and his willingness to battle the guy that is across from him and gets him in those spots."

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