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Penguins Report: It's Staal Good

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins head coach Michel Therrien sat down with Jordan Staal for a little pep talk before Pittsburgh’s game at the New York Islanders on Saturday. His talented, young centerman was having difficulty scoring goals. So Therrien reminded Staal to be patient.

“We got a good discussion with him to just make sure he plays the way he’s supposed to play,” Therrien said. “Maybe when he opened up the season he was trying to put too much pressure on himself. A player needs to relax.”

Message delivered, message received. Following that talk Staal exploded for four goals and five points in the past two games. He recorded his second career hat trick with three goals in the third period against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night.

“It obviously feels good,” Staal said. “The last couple of games I’ve been playing really well. The puck just wasn’t going in for me but (Tuesday) night everything I touched went in. It was a great feeling and hopefully I can keep doing it.”

Staal nearly single-handedly transformed a defeat into a victory against the Red Wings. His three goals helped erase a 5-3 and 6-4 deficit. His third goal tied the game, 6-6, with only 22.8 seconds left in regulation. But Staal wasn’t done there.

In overtime, he pickpocketed Pavel Datsyuk – a responsible puck possession player – and transitioned for a two-on-one rush with Ruslan Fedotenko. He skated the puck wide to pull Detroit goalie Chris Osgood wide and then fed a pass to Fedotenko, who buried the long-range one-timer for the winning goal.


“Staalsy was flying all over in the third period,” Fedotenko said. “He played great. He stole the puck and we went two-on-one. He passed it right to the sweet spot (of my stick). I thought it was kind of far away but the goalie was kind of facing Staalsy for a while. So I thought I would take a quick shot and try to catch him (off guard). It just happened, it went in.”

“It was just a great shot by Feds from how far out he was,” Staal said. “It was a great one-timer and a great goal by him.”

Staal burst of goals is a relief to the 20-year-old. He went 0 for October and was goal-less in 19 straight regular season games until recording an empty-netter at St. Louis on Nov. 1. That goal rejuvenated the Ontario native. Staal has five goals in the past four games.

“I don’t think he really changed his game,” Sykora said. “I think since Game 1 he was playing great but nothing was going in for him. He had lots of chances and that’s the way it goes in this league.

“He stayed patient. I’m very happy for him and he’s a great guy. He really deserves that. I think just to get a hat trick that early in the season really can get your season going. I’m sure he’s going to score a lot more goals.”

Therrien was also delighted to see Staal get on the scoreboard.

“Obviously this was his best game of the year,” Therrien said. “I like the way he’s played the last two games. He’s moving his feet. He’s a really dependable player on the ice. He seems more relaxed too.”

Staal, however, kept his performance in perspecitve.

I’m happy to be where I am right now but I didn’t get here without hard work and I’m going to have to keep doing that. - Jordan Staal
“It was a great game personally,” Staal said. “At the same time it was even better that we ended up winning the game. It was a big game for us. That was a big challenge and we came through.

“I’m happy to be where I am right now but I didn’t get here without hard work and I’m going to have to keep doing that.”

> Defenseman Rob Scuderi left Tuesday's game against Detroit with an undisclosed injury after blocking a shot in the first period. He returned in the first period but didn't play after the first intermission. He is listed as day-to-day.

"It's good news," Therrien said. "It could have been a lot worse. He'll skate tomorrow morning. We'll see how he feels."

Therrien said the team has no plans of calling up a defenseman from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for Thursday night's game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Mellon Arena.

> The Penguins are riding high coming off of their dramatic come-from-behind overtime victory over Detroit. Pittsburgh overcame 5-2 and 6-4 holes to force overtime, thanks largely to Staal's third-period hat trick.

“It’s a huge couple of points,” Sykora said. “It’s always fun to be a part of a game like that. It’s the toughest building to play in, especially after last year and the playoff series. It’s awesome to come in there and get a couple points like that, especially coming back and scoring those four goals in the third period. That was huge. We can build on that."

The Penguins have proven that they are never out of a game. Pittsburgh came back in the third period against the N.Y. Islanders on Saturday, winning in a shootout. The Penguins can empathize with their recent opponents as Pittsburgh has had trouble holding onto the third period leads this season as well.

“In the third period, anything can happen,” Maxime Talbot said. “We’ve seen it on both sides. When we started the year, we had trouble keeping a lead. Now, the last two (road) games we came back in the third period. It can change really fast in a game in the third period.”

“It’s much better,” Fedotenko said of the role reversal. “It seems like when we have a lead we kind of relax a little bit and don’t play with desperation. When you come from behind, you have that desperation. We just need to kind of learn from that, play with desperation even with the lead. Hopefully we’ll take positive things out of those games.”

The Penguins won’t have much time to savor their victory over Detroit. In a quick turnaround, Pittsburgh will host last season’s Eastern Conference Championship opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers, on Thursday at Mellon Arena at 7:30 p.m.

It’s always a big rivalry against the Flyers. We expect it to be a big game. - Max Talbot
“Now you have to move on, turn the page,” Talbot said. “It’s always a big rivalry against the Flyers. We expect it to be a big game.”

“We’ll erase that one quickly and know that our intensity has to be there form the start,” Sidney Crosby said. “It was an emotional game. It's an even better test when your next game will be just as emotional. It will be a test for us.”

This is the second meeting between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, both at Mellon Arena. The Penguins defeated the Flyers, 3-2, on Pascal Dupuis’ overtime goal on Oct. 14.

“It’s going to be a tough game (Thursday),” Sykora said. “They always come to this building and play very hard. It’s always fun to play Philly, as much as to play Detroit. I’m pretty excited about the game and hopefully (we can) get a couple points.”

> He said it: Talbot on scoring with his skate:

"I don’t mind it. I don’t mind scoring any way."


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