In his fourth NHL season, Penguins center Jordan Staal is starting to play with the fire, aggressiveness that could make him a force in the league for years to come.
Tonight was the prime example of that when Staal was the player who wanted the puck on his stick on late in the game as the Penguins trailed.
The Sidney Crosby less Penguins trailed 1-0 with less than two minutes remaining in the third but Staal delivered for the Penguins, scoring his 8th goal of the season at 18:28 of the third period off a set face-off play to force over-time.
Jordan Staal was wide on the face-off, with the intention of driving to the net, an Evgeni Malkin rebound went right to Staal’s stick as he put it past Hawks goaltender Antti Niemi.
” Mike Yeo had drawn up the play with a couple different options,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “Gonchar made a great play and got it back to Malkin, and Staal was wide there going to the net and either looking for a pass or a rebound. And that’s exactly what he got.”
While Staal forced overtime, the Blackhawks prevailed as Kris Versteeg scored 2:38 into overtime. The Hawks got a strong performance from backup goaltender Antti Niemi who made 32 saves.
Former Penguins forward Marian Hossa scored 7:37 into the game. It was his third goal in six games this season. Hossa was booed at nearly every opportunity by the Penguins home crowd.
The Blackhawks are 10-2-1 in their last 13 games.
Penguins goaltender Marc Andre Fleury made 29 saves in the loss.
Hawks, Penguins meet expectations
Despite Sidney Crosby sitting out with a sore groin and only three goals being scored, the Blackhawks-Penguins didn’t disappoint.
It was a big game for both teams and the intensity was there from the start which was very impressive.
Matt Cooke added fuel to the fire by getting under Duncan Keith’s skin early in the game delivering a punishing hit in the offensive zone to the star defenseman.
Keith responded seconds later with a dirty hit to the head on Cooke. Cooke was okay after the hit but he was in Keith’s head the entire game and played his role to perfection.
Hawks transition game impressive
The Blackhawks transition game is among the league’s best. They have a dynamic group of forwards but their group of defensemen might be their best asset personnel wise.
They have a versatile group and four potential All-Stars in Duncan Keith, Brian Campbell, Brent Seabrooke and Cam Barker. There the ones that fuel the Blackhawks offensive attack.
Keith has already established himself as one of the leagues best and Brent Seabrooke may be the most under-rated defenseman in the game. He plays a shutdown role alongside Keith but also has the ability to put up 35-40 points.
Brian Campbell may have the worst contract in the league but that’s not his fault. He’s still a very good defenseman and is performing much better in his second season in Chicago.
Sorry Detroit but there’s going to be a changing of the guard in the Central Division. The Blackhawks have a Stanley Cup caliber team but the question marks surrounding Cristobal Huet will continue to follow Chicago all season.
Players have moved on from the Hossa situation
Marian Hossa returned to Pittsburgh scoring 7:38 into the first period but for many of the Penguins players, they’re tired of answering questions about Hossa.
It’s old news to many them.
Brooks Orpik talked extensively about Hossa this morning. The two became close friends and Orpik had no hard feelings from the time Hossa left Pittsburgh, although Hossa leaving gave Pittsburgh the opportunity to match Orpik’s contract demands that summer.
Orpik though was still in the Penguins plans even if Hossa returned as management had deals in place to move Ryan Whitney.
Quote of the night
“To come in and beat the Stanley Cup champs is special.” — Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg
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