NEW YORK – The New York Rangers just scored their third goal in Game 1.
A once-rowdy Mellon Arena crowd was silenced in disbelief and uncertainty.
Some of the Penguins hung their heads and showed signs of frustration.
Enter, Maxime Talbot.
Talbot didn’t score in the contest, but he made what turned out to be one of the biggest plays of the game – and the series – for the Penguins.
Sean Avery had just netted a goal 3:37 into the second period to boost the Rangers’ lead to 3-0. On the next shift, when the faceoff was played back into the New York zone, Talbot raced around Blair Betts and stormed full-speed for the puck. He jarred it loose from a Rangers player and crashed toward the net, flipping a backhander that Henrik Lundquist stopped and covered. Talbot curled off from the net and crashed into a Rangers player along the boards, which incited some pushing and shoving after the whistle.
|Max Talbot celebrates with teammates Brooks Orpik and Georges Laraque. |
It may not seem like much, but it was huge for the Penguins.
The crowd reacted to Talbot’s hustling play. The Penguins got a sudden jolt of energy. They finally beat Lundqvist less than three minutes later on Jarkko Ruutu’s goal. Pascal Dupuis scored 14 seconds after that to trim the Penguins’ deficit to 3-2.
Suddenly, it was a brand new game and series.
“The crowd was all down after the Rangers scored the third goal in the first game, but I just tried to change the momentum,” Talbot said. “After that, you could hear the crowd get going a little bit and then maybe the guys though, ‘Ok, let’s do it. Let’s do whatever it takes.’ That’s what we did.
“That’s my role and that’s what I try to bring to the table. Sometimes the guys are down and we just got scored on or something. I think, as a player, if your role can be to change momentum, sometimes, when it’s not going your way and you can go out there and try to do something, whether it’s a big hit or whether it’s getting a scoring chance or a goal, whether it’s a fight or anything, if you can bring that to the table, it’s always going to be good for the team.”
Talbot’s hustle and sacrifice were on display Tuesday night in New York during Game 3. On a crucial penalty kill, Talbot blocked a shot off his foot that left him hobbled and questionable for Game 4.
“I do what I can to help the team win and I blocked a shot off my foot and hopefully I will be OK to play,” he said. “It would take a lot of pain. I know I can take a lot of pain, but with a 3-0 lead in the series, I’ll do everything I can to play. If I can’t put weight on it, that’s going to keep me out. If I can’t skate or be as useful as I can be normally, I will stay out. If I can play and battle, I will do everything I can to play.”
Talbot and defenseman Rob Scuderi both were hobbled by blocked shots after the Game 3 triumph.
|Max Talbot |
“Those guys sacrificed their bodies to block shots. You have to give them a lot of credit,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “They are warriors on the ice, but there’s a price to pay. They are sore, but there’s a good chance they are going to play Thursday.”
The Penguins will miss Talbot if he cannot return to the lineup. He centers the team's fourth line and is one of the squad’s best penalty killers. He thrives in those hard-working roles.
“I try to be smart out there. I try to do what I can to make the team successful. It’s not always pretty, but I try to get the job done. I try to help the team win,” he said. “Whatever it takes, I will take a hit; I will throw a hit; I’ll try to put the puck on net and chip it when it’s time to and try to get momentum for the team. I am glad the fans and the team recognize that. Many times, it’s not written on a scoresheet, but at the end of the night, you’re proud of yourself because you did some good things for your team.”
Talbot’s versatility and energy have been key components to the Penguins’ successful playoff drive.
“Collectively, we’re pretty good right now,” he said. “It’s not just one or two players who are even putting the puck in the net, everybody is doing it.
“We have to go one game at a time. Deep down inside, all the guys think about bigger things. It’s exciting and fun, but right now, we have to keep doing what we do and just focus on the next game,” he continued. “I think we feel pretty tight. We’re all brothers and we’re all battling for the same goal. That’s all you do in a family. It’s fun and we’re having a blast out there.”
Talbot’s reckless, hustling style earned him the nickname “Mad Max” and it’s something he enjoys.
“I am Mad Max. It’s fun to get out there and get the crowd going,” he said. “I am having a blast out there.”