The last time the Pens played in a Stanley Cup Final, it was Game 7 in Detroit. In that contest Max Talbot scored two goals for Pittsburgh en route to a 2-1 win and capturing its third Stanley Cup in franchise history.
So as the Pens get set the host the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of the Final tonight at CONSOL Energy Center, it’s only fitting that their last Cup hero returns.
“Being here today, walking the street and feeling the love and feeling that I was a part of something very special in this town,” Talbot said. “I knew deep down I was always going to be a Penguin down to my bones.”
Talbot played six seasons for the Pens after the team drafted him in the eighth round (234th overall) of the 2002 NHL Draft. Talbot was a part of many memorable moments during his career in Pittsburgh.
We caught up with Talbot on his return to Pittsburgh to take a look a back at those memories.
On his two goal-performance in Game 7:
It was morning and I was doing a couple of interviews. The media asked me about who I thought was going to be the hero. And I remember saying, ‘I’d like it to be me.’ Now I think why was I saying that? You want to bet on your best player, not on me. I had a feeling or something.
I got the puck and had a mini-breakaway from short distance. I knew if I shot right away it would not go in. So I dribbled once and shot it five-hole. I’ll never forget (Evgeni) Malkin’s face when he jumped in my arm. I skated back to the bench and there was still so much work ahead of us. I was still super focused.
Toward the end of the second period, (Chris) Kunitz made a great play on the wall to give me a 2-on-1 with Tyler Kennedy. I used him as a decoy, looked him off, looked at (Chris) Osgood and saw room on the high glove. I just took my best shot.
I don’t think there is a goal in the NHL that I celebrated. But for that second goal I don’t know what came through me but I went on my knees. That was something out of the ordinary, maybe I subconsciously knew it would be the game-winning goal. It was a pretty intense moment.
On the text message from Mario Lemieux on the morning of Game 7:
There are no words to describe how much that text message got us going. Getting a text message from Mario Lemieux is cool. You save it. He’s such a big influence on all of us and all hockey players to play the game. Showing that he believed in us, and it was only one game to play, if we leave everything on the ice he’ll be out there on the ice with us lifting the Cup. It gave us a vision. I truly believe in positive thinking. By getting this text message I think we all saw it the same way, it put an image in your head. This is what it’s going to look like and it absolutely did.
On beating the Red Wings:
You think about that game; you think about the last six seconds. Jordan Staal, myself, Craig Adams, Rob Scuderi, Hal Gill just defending. Adams blocking a shot on his side. The desperation, then Nicklas Lidstrom against (Marc-Andre) Fleury. Great shot, better save. All I remember is throwing my glove as high as I can and celebrating for the whole summer after that, my whole life.
On his famous “shh” to the Philadelphia Flyers:
I messed up in the first period on their first goal. I’m sitting between periods thinking what I can do because I’m not going to score three goals. It’s already 3-0. I got to the faceoff and (Daniel) Carcillo was beside me. It just came. Let’s do this. I asked him to fight. I got beat up. I was on the ice and saw him from the corner of my eyes and he’s (pumping his arms) and the crowd is going nuts. I thought what’s the opposite of (pumping your arms). So I (shhhh) for no specific reason. I went in, sat in the box and my teammates answered the bell.
On his goal in Game 5 against the Red Wings that forced a triple-overtime win in the 2008 Cup Final:
Still now, I don’t know what I was doing on the ice at that time. Give some credit to Michel Therrien, with a number of great players on the bench when he pulled Marc-Andre Fleury, he said, ‘Max, take Fleury.’ I remember I didn’t say yes. I took a double take. I went on the ice and luckily enough I scored the tying goal. One of my favorite pieces of memorabilia at home is a picture of me with Sid and Malkin coming toward me with their hands in the air. I got it framed and they both signed something. Sid signed: ‘Great goal. Let’s finish it right next year.’ It makes it perfect.
On the disappointment of losing that ’08 Final:
We were close, very close. We thought let’s do it right next year. That summer was tough with the decision (Marian) Hossa took to leave the Penguins and went to Detroit. I feel that lit a flame in us. If he doesn’t believe us, we’ll believe in ourselves and we’ll prove him wrong.
On his local TV commercials:
It was a part of it, whether it was a car commercial or a hot tub commercial, a stupid interview on TV or the time I went on the ice in Toronto in Crosby’s jersey. At the time you don’t think anything about it. We were just having fun out there. We were living the dream. You think, that’ll be fun, I’ll make a stupid car commercial. Then it’s on Jay Leno. You feel stupid, like why did we do that. A year after they call you again to do it and it becomes a thing with the fans. They call you ‘Superstar.’ I lived it to the fullest and will never regret it.
On his legacy as a Penguin:
It’s more how much I was involved in with the city, with my foundation, with the fans. That’s what I’m most proud of, all the moments I lived with the fans. There are dogs named Max. I feel like I may have marked a few people’s lives as sports fans, but hopefully as people too. I’m very proud of all my time here. I think it shows when I talk about the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a big part of my life and it will always be. In my head, my time with the Pittsburgh Penguins was perfect.
Special thanks to Leo McCafferty for contributing this interview.