PITTSBURGH – Maxime Talbot’s pre-game nap Sunday afternoon included a wishful thought. The Pittsburgh Penguins checker was back in the lineup after missing three games with a foot injury and wanted to return with a splash.
“I was in bed this afternoon thinking, ‘It would be nice to score a goal and make a big comeback,”‘ Talbot said. “You think about stuff like that and sometimes it happens. It’s a great feeling.”
Talbot, who was unable to stop smiling after the game, scored the winning goal 8:51 into the third period Sunday night to lift the Penguins to a 4-2 win over the Flyers, handing Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference final.
“At the NHL level it’s definitely my biggest goal,” said Talbot. “I’m going to remember it for a long time.”
His second career NHL playoff goal was a biggie, putting the Penguins just two wins away from their first trip to the Stanley Cup final in 16 years.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Penguins centre Jordan Staal, who was three years old when the Penguins last lifted the Cup in 1992. “I still feel like I’m a little naive right now. But no question I’m excited about it. I want to win.”
Marian Hossa, Sidney Crosby and Staal, into an empty net, also scored for the Penguins, who won their 15th straight home game and improved to an impressive 10-1 overall in the NHL playoffs. They also knew the Flyers would be desperate to try and get a road split.
“They split their first two games in their first two playoff series,” said Staal. “We didn’t want to give them any life. So we’re happy to get this win and hopefully we’ll win two in their building.”
Mike Richards and Jeff Carter had the goals for the Flyers, who limp back to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Tuesday night now missing Braydon Coburn as well as Kimmo Timonen from their blue-line corps. Those are huge holes to fill.
“Well, obviously it’s tough. Coby is an all-situation player for us,” said Flyers head coach John Stevens. “He plays big minutes, but I thought the group of five did a heck of a job tonight.”
The game was only 1:51 old when Coburn left a trail of blood behind him after taking the puck in the face from Hal Gil’s point shot. Coburn did not return, reportedly needing more than 40 stitches. Timonen went down before the series with a blood clot in his leg.
“My left eye is swollen shut right now. I will keep the ice on it and get the swelling down and see what happens tomorrow,” said Coburn in quotes distributed by the Flyers, adding he may be available for Game 3.
“We’ll have to re-evaluate him when we get home,” said Stevens.
The Flyers aren’t getting any breaks on the injury front and feel they’re just as unlucky with the officiating. Pittsburgh got six power plays to Philadelphia’s three Sunday night.
“I’d just like to see some consistency,” said Stevens. “We got a couple of stars on our team. too.”
Philadelphia could help itself by making fewer mistakes. The Flyers had talked about limiting their turnovers after coughing up the puck over and over again in Game 1. The winner Sunday night came when both Steve Downie and Derian Hatcher failed to get the puck out of their own end. Eventually Gary Roberts got it in the corner and fed Talbot all alone in front.
“Max is a real communicator out there and that’s one the reasons I passed the puck out in front to him because he yelled for it,” said Roberts. “It was a great goal by him.”
Downie had the first shot at clearing the puck and missed.
“(That) turnover can’t happen,” said Stevens. “Move your feet. I’d like to see them roll into that puck instead of putting his butt on the ledge, now we got to reach across and get that puck. But that’s just, it is a learned skill, and it is a costly turnover there. But he’s a good kid. He will rebound from it.”
The sellout crowd of 17,132 at Mellon Arena was on its feet 3:49 into the game as Penguins winger Tyler Kennedy and Flyers forward Scottie Upshall exchanges blows at centre ice in a violent bout. That set the tone for a more physical and emotional game than the series opener, with both teams finishing their checks with authority.
Crosby opened the scoring on a power play at 10:48 when his pass attempt in front delfected off Flyers defenceman Lasse Kukkonen and past Martin Biron. The Flyers goalie had moved off his post anticipating the pass to Ryan Malone in the slot.
It appeared as though the Penguins had gone up 2-0 with 3:19 left in the first period but a video review came back negative on Crosby’s tap-in.
“Since video review of the play proved inconclusive as to if the puck crossed the goal line, the call of no goal on the ice stands,” the league said in a statement.
The call seemed to spark the Flyers, who came back strong. Carter tied it 1-1 5:46 into the second period, one-timing a nifty Joffrey Lupul pass from the corner.
Biron then made a series of solid saves to keep the game tied, notably a sparkling pad save on Kennedy.
Hossa put the home side back up a goal at 13:43 on another power play, fishing out a rebound in front and backhanding a shot past a sprawled Biron.
Richards, Philadelphia’s best player early on in this series, pulled the Flyers back into a tie at 2-2 when he stole a pass attempt from Evgeni Malkin at the Flyers blue-line on a Pittsburgh power play and broke in alone on Marc-Andre Fleury, beating the Penguins goalie top corner on the glove side with 24 seconds left in the second period.
Notes – Veteran Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine was in attendance. He’s an avid hockey fan and a former Los Angeles Kings draft pick in 1984 …The Flyers inserted agitator Steve Downie into the lineup at the expense of forward Patrick Thoresen … Talbot replaced Adam Hall in the Penguins lineup … Pittsburgh’s last home loss in regulation was Feb. 13.