PITTSBURGH (AP) -The Pittsburgh Penguins got back into a game that looked hopelessly lost by replacing the more physical Jarkko Ruutu with the faster Max Talbot at center Jordan Staal's line.
Staal, adjusting on the fly to a new linemate, scored twice in 11 minutes of the third period as the Penguins cut a three-goal deficit to one goal before losing 4-2 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night. The Flyers added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
So, naturally, coach Michel Therrien will keep the Talbot-Staal-Tyler Kennedy line intact for Game 5 on Sunday. By winning, the Penguins would secure their first trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 16 years.
Or will he?
As fast as Therrien made the move, he may switch back to his former line combinations when the Penguins return to Mellon Arena, where they have won 15 consecutive games since late February.
"We're going to come back with the same recipe that had success so far," Therrien said Friday. "That means we're going to rotate four lines and try to get the lead early to get the pressure on them and concentrate on the way we're supposed to play. That's not something that I'm planning to do from the start with Staal and Kennedy because I like Maxime, first of all, as a centerman."
Maybe for good reason. As the center on Pittsburgh's fourth line, Talbot returned from a three-game layoff with a broken right foot to score the decisive goal as the Penguins won 4-2 in Game 2 last Sunday, their most recent home game.
"I like to rotate four lines the majority of the game," Therrien said. "But we're in position that we've got to go with Plan B pretty quick" if necessary.
Staal's two-goal game was only his second of the season and came after a sluggish sophomore season in which he was held to 12 goals, down from the 29 he scored as an 18-year-old rookie in 2006-07.
Staal left the Penguins to attend his grandfather's funeral in Canada on Wednesday, but was back for Game 4.
"It really just clicked when we had the three of us out there," Staal said. "You know, we just tried to keep it simple. Just kind of getting pucks deep and working down low, and we had a few opportunities after that."
Therrien tried to create a faster pace by putting Talbot on the Staal line, and the impact of the move was immediate. It also may give the Penguins an idea of how they should try to play in Game 5, by answering the Flyers' physical play with their speed.
Or, as Therrien said, "It's tough to control speed."
"I think they're trying to slow the game down for us," Staal said. "We were trying to get into a lot of scrums and stuff. That's not our game. We know that if we play whistle to whistle hard, they're going to get a lot more intimidated by that than anything else."