PITTSBURGH – When Penguins coach Dan Bylsma needed a stopper on the lightning-quick Pavel Datsyuk, he called on Jordan Staal.
It was nothing new for Staal, 20, who has become accustomed to playing against the opposition's top offensive players throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And alongside linemates Tyler Kennedy
and Matt Cooke
, the Pens' checking line was able to shut down one of the League's most prolific offensive units in Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary.
While Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Cleary combined for 12 of Detroit's 26 shots, they also finished a minus-3 under the close eye of Staal-Kennedy-Cooke. Staal and Kennedy would connect for Pittsburgh's only goals and a plus-3 rating in a 2-1 victory in Game 6.
"With Jordan's skating ability and his size, he can be a force in the defensive zone," Bylsma said. "He can be a force with his speed through the neutral zone, he can be a force in the offensive zone. He's a unique combination of skating ability, plus the size he can bring to the game. He's just learning what he can do out there and (Tuesday) was a game he did it on both ends of the rink."
For the second time in this series, Staal scored the goal that would ultimately re-energize his entire bench -- just 51 seconds into the second period to snap a scoreless tie. He scored a shorthanded goal in Game 4 to pull his team even en route to a 4-2 win.
And he was at it again on Tuesday in Staal-like fashion upon scoring his fourth of the playoffs. His mouth was agape while screaming at the fans -- it's a Staal tradition in Pittsburgh.
"(Detroit) has a great line, up front, and they do a great job of creating offense, but we're getting the job done as well," Staal said. "When you play solid defense and do the right things, the offense will click."
Staal received 19:31 of ice time in Game 6 -- getting minutes on the power-play (1:07) and penalty-killing (1:52) units. He dished out three hits and won 57 percent of his faceoffs on 14 draws.
"Jordan is on his game right now and he's the big horse -- putting in a lot of minutes on the ice for us," Pens forward Pascal Dupuis
said. "He's playing unbelievable, but I think everyone has contributed. Jordan's line is playing very well against the opposing team's top line right now."
Staal feels puck possession is the biggest key in managing the skilled Red Wings.
"Puck possession is always huge in every game and I think every team is big on puck possession," Staal said. "I thought we didn't give it up a lot and we made the right plays when we needed to. We limited our amount of turnovers and that was good."
Does he feel the victory may have planted a seed of doubt in the mind of the Red Wings players?
"They are a great team and they'll do a great job of bouncing back, much like after Games 3-4 where they came out flying in Game 5 at home," Staal said. "We just have to make sure that doesn't happen this time."Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer