Staal Leads the Way with Hat Trick
Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 11:19 PM ET / 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs Coverage
By Michelle Crechiolo
Sidney Crosby spoke about how guys’ true colors would show through in the midst of adversity with the Penguins down 3-0 in their opening-round series against the Flyers.
Well, we certainly saw what Jordan Staal is made of – the stuff of a true leader.
The Penguins center rose to the occasion with his team on the brink of elimination, producing his first career playoff hat trick in Pittsburgh's 10-3 victory over Philadelphia at Wells Fargo Center and leading the way in keeping the Penguins’ postseason hopes alive.
“I just wanted to keep it going. I didn’t want to lose,” Staal said. “Just tried to play my best and shoot the puck, and I was fortunate enough to get a few tonight.
“I wasn’t out there thinking hat trick, but just trying to play as good as I can for the team and shooting pucks. I was fortunate enough to bury a couple.”
After a wild first period that saw the Flyers take a 3-2 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the frame, Crosby evened the score 27 seconds later on a re-direct.
And it'd be Staal who'd score what would prove to be the game-winner with just 2:31 left in the period to give the Penguins a 4-3 lead – the second of eight unanswered goals for Pittsburgh.
“Jordan was exceptional, again,” head coach Dan Bylsma. “He stepped up and got big goals for us. He gets the game-winner there at the end of the first period with a great shift and a great offensive zone (presence) with (Eric) Tangradi at the side of the net. (Staal) picks up the rebound and gets what turns out to be the game-winner.”
But not only did he convert all three of the shots he threw at the Flyers net, Staal was truly in beast mode all over the ice. He finished 15-8 on faceoffs (65 percent) and skated 22:53 minutes, second on the team and first among Penguins forwards.
Many of those minutes came on the penalty kill and the second power-play unit, but a lot of them also came as the result of double shifting with 11 forwards and seven defensemen dressed.
Though Staal is just 23 years old, he's been in this league a long time – and has a history of elevating his game when his team needs it most, especially during the playoffs. And while he’s pleased with the way he contributed Wednesday night, he knows he and the rest of his teammates need to bring a similar effort and desperation level in Friday's Game 5 in Pittsburgh.
“It’s only one win,” he said. “It’s a race to four. It doesn’t matter how you get there. We’re going to have to try to win four games and we’ll take it one game at a time."