It wasn’t just a monkey on Maxime Talbot’s back – more like a baby gorilla.
He’s been as close as any player could come to scoring a goal over the past few games, putting up some outstanding performances all over the ice, but just missing the back of the net.
But on Wednesday against the New York Islanders at CONSOL Energy Center, he was finally rewarded with an empty-net goal – his 50th career goal and 100th career point – with 41 seconds remaining to seal a 3-0 victory for the Penguins.
“It feels great, it feels relieving,” he said of ending his 25-game goalless drought. “The last couple games I had a couple of chances and it was starting to get a little frustrating, but I just stayed with it. All the guys were joking about it and cheering me on, so it feels good.”RELATED: Aftermath: Penguins 3, Islanders 0 >>
“I think the biggest roar from our bench came when he got that goal and scored it,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “A little bit of relief for him and a little bit of reward for some of the hard work he’s done.”
Talbot, who’s known for his two-way play and penalty killing abilities (as he’s fourth on the team with an average of 3:13 shorthanded minutes per contest) has been playing well on a line with Mike Rupp and Chris Conner.
Rupp was glad to see his linemate finally get rewarded.
“Max has been playing real well, our line has been getting a lot of chances,” Rupp said. “It’s good to see him pop one in, hopefully get that off his back and start putting them in consistently.”
It was only fitting Talbot’s tally, his first since Nov. 29, came against the Islanders, the team that had inspired the most frustration for him entering the All-Star break when they faced off on Jan. 25.
“I got really frustrated the game before the All-Star break against the Islanders because I had so many chances and I was getting down on myself,” he said. “But coming off the break I was like ‘Hey, I’m doing the right things.’ I knew at one point it was going to go in.”RELATED: Johnson's Knockout Night >>
But it did seem like that point wasn’t going to come Wednesday, as Talbot had an opportune scoring chance seconds into the middle frame that had Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro thanking the red painted metal.
He ripped a shot that hit the upper right post and deflected down to clang off the bottom right post before bouncing out of danger. It was so close to going in that the goal horn even went off.
Luckily, Talbot was able to set the horn off for real by continuing to take advantage of extended ice time that’s been given to him. He’s logged 17-plus minutes in each of his last three contests, much higher than his average of 14:33 minutes.
“You work hard, you try to do the right things,” Talbot said. “My game has never been about assists and goals, but it obviously feels great to get some.”RELATED: Penguins Encourage Fans To Bring "Terrible Towels" To Friday's Game vs. Buffalo at CONSOL Energy Center
Bylsma said that if Talbot keeps up that mindset, this won’t be the last time the Penguins forward finds the back of the net.
“It was good to see him get that goal,” Bylsma said. “It’s the type of goal where if he keeps playing like he is, he’s going to see a couple more come right behind it, so it was good to see it go in.”