Penguins center Jordan Staal
has always had a big body at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. But his play was even bigger than that in Pittsburgh’s 4-1 win over New Jersey at CONSOL Energy Center Saturday night.
Staal scored two goals, including his 100th career NHL goal on the second tally, to lead the Penguins offensively, and adding five shots and three hits in over 22 minutes of ice time.
“I felt good tonight,” Staal said. “My legs felt good. My hands felt good. I just had a good game. … I was very excited when they announced 100 tonight. It’s a milestone, but I want to keep moving forward.”
"He's doing everything," linemate Chris Kunitz
said. "He kills penalties. He plays against the top lines. He's a guy that flies under the radar with a bunch of superstars on this team. We know how good he is. He's proven it year after year."
When Staal is at his best he is a dominant force at both ends of the ice. And even though his two goals will dominant the highlight reels from the game, his defensive efforts were just as superb while going against New Jersey’s top line.
“Staal played outstanding on the power play and five-on-five,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He and his line were going against (Ilya) Kovalchuk most of the night so it was a tall order. He came up with a huge third.”
“He’s a great two-way player,” defenseman Kris Letang
said. “With his body and speed, he plays really well defensively and offensively. He gets rewarded because he makes the right plays in the defensive zone.”
Staal’s first goal came with his team on the power play. Richard Park
, playing the point, wandered down the wall and feathered a pass through a few Devils sticks right to Staal in the far circle. Staal one-timed a beauty that New Jersey netminder Johan Hedberg still hasn’t seen.
“Park made a great pass, I got a hold of it,” Staal said.
Staal’s second goal, his 100th career, came off a gorgeous deke play. Staal took a pass at the midpoint of the Devils zone with room to skate. He carried and pulled the puck to his backhand and around defender Bryce Salvador. He then roofed a shot from in tight that jumped over the shoulder of Hedberg.
) made a great pass from the corner, I just made a little move to the backhand,” Staal said. “I put as much on it as I could and luckily it went in.”
Staal’s overall game has continued to mature and grow, and coach Bylsma believes two factors are leading to his current stretch of strong play: skating and holding the puck.
“The biggest thing you’re seeing is (Staal’s) skating ability has opened that up for him, his speed wide, his power wide, is creating different things for him driving to the net and playmaking ability,” Bylsma said. “Holding onto the puck down low, he’s such a big guy, if he holds onto the puck he can hold it for 10, 12 seconds and giving him the ability to make a play. When he skates and holds onto the puck, he’s a force.”