Jordan Staal has played in seven NHL games.
Already, he has scored three short-handed goals.
“We’re more than satisfied with that,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said.
Not bad for an 18-year-old.
“It’s pretty surprising for myself. I am obviously happy with it,” said the young Penguins rookie. “Hopefully, the coaches are, too, and they’ll let me stick around.”
Many did not know what to expect out of Staal, the second-overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, when he made the Penguins’ roster out of training camp.
Maybe he’d play strong on the penalty kill?
Maybe he’d give a quality dozen or so minutes every night?
Maybe he’d get better every game?
He’s done all three – and much more.
“The coaches definitely gave me a lot of opportunities out there. So far, I’ve just been trying to take the opportunities and cash in on them,” Staal said. “I think I have been playing well enough when they do give me opportunities. Hopefully, I can keep doing that.”
Staal cashed in on two scoring opportunities Saturday night in the Penguins’ 5-3 win over Columbus. He scored a short-handed goal in the second period and added a short-handed penalty shot in the third.
His first goal came off a Mark Recchi rebound. However, the penalty shot was a little more suspenseful.
Staal broke in on goaltender Fredrik Norrena’s left and crossed in front and unleashed a hard wrist shot. The puck clanged off the far post, ricocheted back to Norrena, bounced off his skate and trickled into the net 7:49 into the third period.
The penalty shot was initially ruled unsuccessful. However, video replay overturned the ruling and Staal drew a large ovation.
“I was trying not to think too much. That’s when you fumble the puck or something like that. My heart was beating and I just went with what works. It worked out,” he said. “I didn’t even know what happened. My mind just went blank after I shot it. I didn’t see where the puck went. Obviously, the video guy saw it, so that’s what matters.”
The tally made all three of his NHL goals short-handed scores. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last NHL player to score his first three goals in short-handed situations was Bill Gardner of the Blackhawks in the 1981-82 season. Coincidentally, Gardner and Staal both played their junior hockey at Peterborough.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Staal, age 18 years, 41 days, is the youngest NHL player to score two or more goals in one game since Dec. 21, 1943, when Bep Guidolin, age 18 years, 12 days, scored twice for the Bruins in an 8-5 win over the Maple Leafs.
In addition, Staal is the youngest NHL player ever to score a pair of shorthanded goals in one game, breaking the mark set by Radek Dvorak with Florida on Dec. 12, 1997 (age 20 years, 278 days), and he’s the youngest player in NHL history to score on a penalty shot, smashing the record formerly held by Florida’s Nathan Horton (age 18 years, 224 days on Jan. 8, 2004).
The rare feat raised a sarcastic question from a reporter of whether Staal could score an even-strength or power-play goal at the NHL level.
“Yeah it’s killing me inside,” he said jokingly. “Whenever I get on the ice, I’m looking to score and so far it’s been working out for me.”