For a player who made his first mark on the NHL with a pair of shorthanded goals, it is fitting that center Jordan Staal
turned the tides in Game 4 with a shorthanded tally at the 8:35 mark of the second period.
“Well, it felt pretty good,” Staal said. “I have to say, it took me a little while to get another one. You know, Max (Talbot) made a great play. I saw (Nicklas) Lidstrom and (Brian) Rafalski both kind of flat footed. And I just kind of buried my head, went for it and kind of snuck it in.”
The Penguins had two simultaneous penalties to kill off when Staal used his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame to muscle the puck around Rafalski and flip a shot past Chris Osgood for the goal.
“That was a big goal,” Bill Guerin said. “You fight and fight and you try to get back to your game and back into your system and gain some momentum. But when you get a shorthanded goal like that against that power play it’s a big lift for the guys.”
The situation was a dire one for Pittsburgh at the 5:44 mark of the second period when they were faced with back-to-back penalties against the Red Wings’ power play unit, which was ranked No. 1 in the NHL during the regular season.
The Penguins were trailing Detroit, 2-1, when Malkin was sent to the box for hooking. The Penguins worked tirelessly to kill off that penalty but with two seconds left, Brooks Orpik
was called for tripping and the Penguins were faced with another penalty kill. However, they weren’t phased, and were rewarded for their efforts with a shorthanded, game-tying goal.
“It was huge,” captain Sidney Crosby
said. “Detroit had a little bit of momentum at that point and then they had a few power plays so that was huge momentum for us to get that first kill and then that score and we bounced back after that. It was huge.”
“Staal’s goal certainly changed the complexion of the game,” head coach Dan Bylsma added. “Detroit had a chance to go up 3 1. And Jordan used speed up the ice. He made a strong move to the net like he can with his big body and scored a great goal for us.”
“There are a lot of things throughout the game but that was a big turning point for us,” standout penalty killer Hal Gill said. “When Jordan is going down there and driving the net that means a lot to us.”
Staal has a history of scoring shorthanded goals. In fact, Staal is the youngest player in NHL history to score two shorthanded goals in a game as well as the first player since 1982 to score his first three NHL goals shorthanded. He also set an NHL record during his rookie season in 2006-2007 at the age of 18 when he led the entire league with seven shorthanded goals. This shorthanded tally though, the game-tying tally to tie the series in the Stanley Cup final, takes the cake.Three in Six
While Staal’s shorthanded tally tied the score for the Penguins, it also sparked a scoring rally which saw three Penguin goals within a 5:37 span. The Penguins went from trailing the Red Wings, 2-1, to leading the game, 4-2 – a lead that the Penguins latched onto for the remainder of the game to bury the Red Wings and tie the series.
“Staalsy’s goal obviously set the table for everything else that followed,” Orpik said.
Two minutes later Crosby connected for his first goal of the series on a nice set up play from Evgeni Malkin
. The goal gave Pittsburgh the lead and energized the building, including defenseman Kris Letang
, who tackled his teammate during the celebration.
“I was happy to see one go in,” Crosby said. “I didn't expect Tanger to come that hard. He was happy for me and it feels good to see it go in for sure.”Tyler Kennedy
netted the third goal after Chris Kunitz
and Crosby sent tic-tac-toe passes zooming around Detroit’s defense and Kennedy one-timed a shot past a scrambling Osgood from the back door.
“We’re a better team when everybody is playing,” Guerin said. “Goals and assists aren’t easy to come by against this team.”Tie Series
History did not repeat itself this year. The Penguins 4-2 victory over Detroit on Thursday night tied the best-of-seven series at 2-2, as opposed to last year’s Stanley Cup Final in which the Penguins fell into a 3-1 deficit after four games.
“It’s tough to come back against these guys,” Orpik said. “I thought we did a great job there.”
“Yeah, these last couple at home have been desperation from us,” Crosby added. “It's going to be like that all the way through here.”
The Penguins back-to-back home victories mark the second time this season that the Penguins have battled back from a 2-0 deficit in the playoffs. They lost Games 1 and 2 of the semifinals showdown with the Washington Capitals but battled back to take the series in seven games. It also means the Stanley Cup Final has become a best-of-three contest as it heads back to Detroit for Game 5 Saturday night.
“It's tough to start a series down by two wins,” said Marc-Andre Fleury
, who made 37 saves in the victory. “You know, it was great to see the character in the room to be able to battle back and tie it up. “
“We’re trying to improve every night and every shift,” Gill said. “We did all of the little things that we needed to do well and that was a big statement for us. We’re where we need to be right now.”