PITTSBURGH - Jordan Staal’s game-winning playoff goal for the Pittsburgh Penguins couldn’t have made his parents much happier. Or sadder.
Staal’s power-play goal in the second period broke a scoreless tie and Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made the lead stand up, giving the Penguins a 2-0 victory Sunday over New York Rangers and a home-ice sweep of the first two games of their second-round series.
Staal’s goal came with older brother Marc, a Rangers defenseman on the ice, and was all the offensive support Fleury needed while making 26 saves. Fleury helped the Penguins kill off two key Rangers power plays in the final six-plus minutes before Adam Hall scored into an empty net with 16.7 seconds remaining.
Games 3 and 4 will be Tuesday and Thursday nights at Madison Square Garden, where Pittsburgh is 0-3-1 this season.
Staal’s power-play goal at 13:55 of the second came with the Rangers’ best penalty killer, Chris Drury, off for hooking. Evgeni Malkin gathered the puck in the left circle and, shedding Marc Staal, fed it down low to Jordan Staal, who shifted from his backhand to his forehand to lift the puck over goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
“He’s a great passer,” Jordan Staal said. “I’m just glad to be the finisher.”
Did he realize who Malkin beat to get him the puck?
“Not really,” Staal said. “It’s all pretty much a blur out there.”
Staal’s game-winner no doubt delighted parents Linda and Henry Staal on their sod farm in Thunder Bay, Ontario, but also disappointed them. The Staals’ parents decided not to attend the series because they knew one son would be disappointed when it ended.
Older brother Eric Staal of Carolina, a Stanley Cup winner two years ago, cut an NHL commercial in which he jokingly said the playoffs determine which son the Staals like best.
“That’s a good question,” Jordan Staal said, smiling. “I know they’re cheering for a good game. This is tough for them, we know that, but it’s part of the game.”
Staal has played well in the playoffs so far after having a disappointing sophomore regular season, getting only 12 goals, none short-handed. He had 29 goals and an NHL rookie-record seven short-handed scores as an 18-year-old.
Lundqvist, a Vezina Trophy finalist, played a superlative game with 30 saves, several times making multiple stops with traffic in front of him and the Penguins pressing to take a lead they knew would put further pressure on the Rangers. New York now must sweep the two games at home to regain a tie in the series between Atlantic Division rivals.
“We just have to go back home and still feel confident, we know we can beat this team,” Lundqvist said. “We have to go back home and get two wins there and come back here, and it’s going to be pressure on them.”
So far, it’s the much younger Penguins who are standing up to the pressure of the playoffs, becoming the first team in franchise history to win its first six playoff games. The Penguins swept Ottawa in the first round.
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