Finals Heroes: Jordan Staal and Max Talbot

When I first thought about writing this piece, I figured it would be titled, ‘Who you can’t blame for the Pens losing in the Finals.’

It was going to be about how Tyler Kennedy/Jordan Staal/Matt Cooke did everything they could to propel the Pens past adversity.  After a 5-0 loss in Detroit, none of us expected what was about to happen.

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Those three did propel the Penguins past adversity … and now we’re STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS.  They made memorable plays and scored memorable goals that this city will never forget.

And if you’re going to talk heros, you have to place Max Talbot’s name in there as well.  He not only scored both goals that led to winning in Game 7.  Since the first round, Talbot had a significant influence on helping the Pens become champions.

When you look to the back-to-back Cup wins in ’91 & ’92, there are plays that everyone remembers that saved the Penguins season.  Mike Pietrangelo’s save on Peter Stastny in Game 6 of the first round against the Devils is a prime example.  It’s something that no one expected to see, but no one will ever forget it.

We had our share of those experiences this time around.

If you have trouble remembering who we played in the first round, I don’t blame you.  Believe it or not, today marks two months since the playoffs started — the first round began on April 15.

The Penguins played the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round and jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first four games of the series.  However, the Flyers came back and won Game 5 in Pittsburgh, forcing a Game 6 in Philly.

In Game 6, the Flyers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second period.  It seemed certain that the series was heading back to Pittsburgh for a winner-take-all Game 7.

But before you knew it, Max Talbot challenged Dan Carcillo in a fight.  This could have been meaningless in the broad scheme of things, but Max knew what he was doing.  He knew that he could jump start his team and did.

After the fight, Talbot was ushered to the box and he looked at the crowd and confidently told them to shut up.  We hoped it would help.  He knew it would.

Next thing you know … 1,2,3 and 4 goals.

Sidney Crosby adds an empty netter and the series is over.

Who knows what could have happened it Max didn’t fight Carcillo.  What if Carcillo decided not to give in to Talbot’s tactics?

We’ll never know.  All that’s certain is that it was the first memorable act of the playoffs.

In the next two rounds, there were tons of great plays.  Many give the team new life, like Kris Letang’s overtime goal in Game 3 against Washington and Evgeni Malkin’s turnaround backhander past Cam Ward in the Eastern Conference Finals.

However, none quite match up to what Max did.  Sure Evgeni Malkin’s overtime winner in Game 6 at the Verizon Center was huge.  However, there’s something about a play that, when it happens, you’re not quite sure how it will affect a game and series.

That fight was monumental and none of us knew what it would lead to.

In the Stanley Cup Finals, the Penguins received another huge boost from Jordan Staal.  After losing the first two games in Detroit by identical scores of 3-1, people began writing off the Pens.  No one believed that we could win four of five games against the ‘mighty’ Red Wings.

The Pens then took Game 3, having to win Game 4 as well to have any chance of possibly winning the Cup.  Falling behind 3-1 again to Detroit and having to win the games five, six and seven was going to be damn near impossible for the Pens to do.

The second period began tied, 1-1.  Things didn’t start well, allowing a Detroit goal and then taking back to back penalties that gave the Wings nearly four straight minutes of power play time.

Things were looking bleak.  It appeared that Detroit was about to put the series away.  Then Jordan Staal went on a breakaway that we’ll never forget.

In a moment when the series could have been put away, Staal brought the Penguins back.  That goal was the start of three straight Pittsburgh goals in a span of 5:37.  It gave the Pens a 4-2 lead and new life in the series.

Who scores a shorthanded goal in the Finals?  And take notice that Max Talbot got the primary assist on the goal.

Staal was the hero yet again in Game 6.  After being shut out and dominated in Game 5 by a score of 5-0, Staal scored the opening goal in Game 6.  It came early in the second period.

The Pens dominated the first period but had nothing to show for it.  He changed all of that and helped force a Game 7.

In that Game 7 … I think we all know what Max did.

As time passes, these moments will sink in.  We’ll continue to realize how much these two players influenced the Pens playoff run.

Chris | PPT

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