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Talbot's Return Sparks Pens To Victory

by Joe Sager / Pittsburgh Penguins

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Maxime Talbot knows how to make triumphant returns to the ice.

And, he’s pretty good at scoring clutch goals, too.

The feisty center got back in the Penguins’ lineup Sunday night and had a huge impact as he scored the game-winning goal in Pittsburgh’s 4-2 win over the Flyers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Mellon Arena.

“It’s a great way to come back. I was just happy to be back in the lineup. To have the game-winning goal is extra special,” he said. “Of course, you dream about it. It’s a perfect scenario. It feels great. It just feels great just to get the win in Game 2.”

The Penguins had control of the game, 2-1, and were on a power play late in the second period. However, the Flyers grabbed the momentum when Mike Richards intercepted a pass and raced in on a breakaway for a shorthanded goal with 24 seconds remaining in the period.

That goal stunned the Penguins. Yet, it didn’t take long for the team’s fourth line of Georges Laraque, Gary Roberts and Talbot to assert itself. Laraque shoveled a puck behind the Philadelphia net. Roberts hustled to it and fired a pass into the slot toward a crashing Talbot. He one-timed it into the back of the net to give the Penguins a 3-2 advantage 8:51 into the period.

The goal brought the sellout Mellon Arena crowd back to its feet and infused energy back into the Penguins.

Maxime Talbot celebrates his game-winning goal Sunday night.

“That’s our role. We have to get a little momentum every time we are out there. We are happy to be on the ice because we don’t get out there as often as the other lines, but when we do get out there, we try to change momentum,” Talbot said. “I just put the puck in there and Georges put it behind the net. I called for the puck and Gary put it right on my stick. It’s extra special when the third or fourth line gets a goal like that. The crowd gets going. It feels great.”

Talbot’s goal was a huge boost for Pittsburgh as it intensified its pressure on the Flyers and did not allow a solid scoring chance in the period. Jordan Staal put the game away with a shorthanded goal with 29 seconds to play.

“Max’s goal was huge for us. That has been the story for the playoffs so far,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “Those guys have stepped up.  And by ‘those guys,’ I mean the guys on the third and fourth line have come up with some huge goals, and have played well for us even if they haven’t showed up on the scoresheet sometimes. They create a lot of momentum for us. Those guys, they are going to make the difference between winning and losing lots of times. They have come up big for us.  Max, to come up big in his first game back, we’re definitely proud of him.”

Penguins coach Michel Therrien was happy to see Talbot and the fourth line rewarded with a goal for their hard work against the Flyers. He put that line back out on the ice late in the game to shut down Philadelphia’s attack.

“Max seems to score all those big times, even if he doesn’t score many goals.  You look at his goal, the game-winner. He and Gary Roberts and Georges Laraque...we try to rotate the line as much as we can,” he said. “It is a nice contribution from different players and it is good for those guys to be able to contribute to the success of the team. I was really pleased for the hard work. They got rewarded for their hard work and it is nice to see that.

“They score us the big goal and then they went back on the ice for a big stop. As a coach you have to show some trust at times, and they did a great job,” he continued. “They scored a big goal. They were playing well defensively and we put those guys back out late in the game. It’s about rewarding and showing the players that you’ve got trust in their game.”

Therrien trusted Talbot enough to insert him back in the lineup Sunday while battling a foot injury. Talbot injured his foot in Game 3 against the New York Rangers while blocking a shot and missed the last two games of that series and the first one against the Flyers.

“I felt great. I can’t even feel it right now,” Talbot said immediately after Sunday’s game. “When you get in the game, you can’t think about if you’re hurt or not. You don’t think about that; you just try to do your best out there. I don’t feel it right now. It feels great. I was just happy to be there and happy to win the game.”

The goal was especially rewarding for Talbot, who battled a high ankle sprain in the second half of the season before injuring the foot in the playoffs.

“It’s not been an easy season, being out 20 games with an ankle injury and now we’re in the playoffs and I am starting to feel better from the ankle injury and then I got an injury to my foot,” he said. “I try to stay positive in there. Whatever happens, it’s for a reason and I am just happy to be playing. That makes it special because getting game-winning goals in the playoff like that feels great.”

Talbot’s teammates were thrilled to see him get back in the lineup.

“He’s such a warrior and it’s nice to see him get the winning goal after he had been hurt for a couple games,” Penguins winger Marian Hossa said. “It’s great for his confidence and the team’s.”

Now, Talbot hopes that goal is the first of many more to come in the postseason.

“Hopefully,” he said with a laugh. “It’s great to get a break like that. It’s all about the team and we’re just happy to win the game. I don’t care who scores the goals.”

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