for this game

Staal's fluke goal pushes Penguins past Thrashers

Mar 25, 2007 - 5:25 AM
PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- The Pittsburgh Penguins still are having trouble scoring, but rookie Jordan Staal may have turned around their fortunes.

Staal scored a fluke goal midway through the third period to snap a tie and give the Penguins a 2-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers.

Michel Ouellet also tallied and Jocelyn Thibault made 25 saves for Pittsburgh (42-23-10), which remained two points behind New Jersey (44-23-8) for first place in the Atlantic Division.

"We knew that we were close, but I don't think it changes the approach or the state of mind as far as winning hockey games," said Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, who leads the NHL with 108 points but was kept off the scoresheet for the third straight game. "We'll let the standings take care of themselves. We can't control what they do, so we've just got to focus, game in and game out, on getting two points."

"We needed that game," Thibault added. "The standings is one thing, but the last couple of games, we didn't play as good as we should at this time of year. (This) is a game we can build on. It's the type of hockey we'll have to play down the stretch and into the playoffs."

Limited to just one goal in each of their previous two games, both losses, the Penguins managed only two in this one. But the way in which Staal tallied could be the beginning of a sign of things to come for the club.

With the game even at 1-1, Staal controlled the puck in the left corner and threw it into the crease. Pushed up against the left goalpost, netminder Kari Lehtonen had the puck hit his right leg and slip past him at 10:19, giving Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead.

"I don't know (what happened)," Staal said. "It just snuck off the sole of my stick. I was actually pretty mad that I missed it and I guess I put enough spin on it for it to bounce off the leg and in. ... It must be the fans or something. When all those people are cheering for us, the good bounces are going to go our way."

"I just saw the puck coming from the corner and it was on the ice and it was going to hit the side of the net," Lehtonen said. "I don't know, it was some kind of monkey puck or something. It started climbing the side of the net, and then it hit my pad and went in. It was too late when I realized that. It's just weird, weird stuff."

Lehtonen insisted he played the puck correctly.

"I would be in the same position from here on, like I am always," he said. "I wouldn't change anything that I did. It was just tremendously bad luck, and it cost us a lot. I'm sad."

While disappointed, Thrashers coach Bob Hartley understands the breaks occasionally go against you.

"It's a bounce," he said. "It just goes to show you that any puck that is going towards the net has a chance to go in. It's like pinball - it hits two or three places, then bang, it's in the back of the net. We've scored a couple like this, and unfortunately, today we're on the receiving end."

It was the 29th goal of the season for the 18-year-old Staal, who is two shy of tying teammate Evgeni Malkin for the league lead among rookies.

Malkin registered an assist for the Penguins, who extended their home winning streak to five games. Pittsburgh also improved to 13-4-1 in its last 18 one-goal decisions.

"You want to establish your home rink as a place that's going to be tough to play in for an opposing team coming in here," Crosby said. "We've been strong at home, and it's something that we want to make sure we keep improving on. We try and feed off the crowd here and just go out there and make plays and do the things that we normally do."

"It was a tight game, and we're learning how to play those tight games," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "We've been playing a lot of tight games lately. ... It was a defensive game with not much room, and this is going to determine our fate in about three weeks."

Captain Scott Mellanby netted the lone tally for Atlanta (39-27-10), which has lost three straight on the road but remained just two points ahead of second-place Tampa Bay (41-31-4) in the Southeast Division.

"(The division title) is important, but we want to get a playoff spot," Mellanby said. "Our goal is to get a spot, and if we win the division, we get one. At this point, it's a tight race. ... We have to get a few more wins here, and wherever we finish, I think as long as we're playing that type of game like we did tonight, we'll feel good about ourselves."

"That's the nature of our division, that's the nature of our conference," Hartley said. "You look at how many teams are stacked in there. Obviously, you have to take care of your own game, that's where it starts. You can watch the scoreboard as much as you want, but you have to help yourself, that's the first rule."

Ouellet gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead at 7:55 of the first period with his third goal in five games. After Lehtonen made saves on Gary Roberts and Malkin, Ouellet buried a loose puck from the edge of the crease for the tally.

After a scoreless second session, Mellanby forged a tie at 6:18 of the third, when he deposited the rebound of defenseman Greg de Vries' shot from the right point past Thibault.

"The first shot, I had on the shoulder and I was trying to find the puck and I found it and tried to jump on it," Thibault said. "But for some reason, it bounced away and they took the puck and threw to their D-man. I made a save, but the rebound went right on Mellanby's stick. It's one of those things."








  • NHL
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    ATLANTA 0 0 1 1
    PITTSBURGH 1 0 1 2 FINAL
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: PIT - MICHEL OUELLET 17 (EVGENI MALKIN, GARY ROBERTS) 7:55
    2ND PRD: NONE
    3RD PRD: ATL - SCOTT MELLANBY 12 (GREG DE VRIES) 6:18
    PIT - JORDAN STAAL 29 (RYAN MALONE, JOSEF MELICHAR) 10:19
    POWER-PLAY CONVERSIONS: ATL - 0

    Mar 24 3:41 PM
  • 15
    roots
    RUWTbot Added 15 roots

    Thrashers vs. PenguinsMar 24 3:36 PM


  • NHL
    ATLANTA 1
    PITTSBURGH 2
    3RD PRD: PIT - JORDAN STAAL 29 (RYAN MALONE) 10:19

    Thrashers vs. PenguinsMar 24 3:23 PM


  • NHL
    ATLANTA 1
    PITTSBURGH 1
    3RD PRD: ATL - SCOTT MELLANBY 12 (GREG DE VRIES) 6:18

    Thrashers vs. PenguinsMar 24 3:14 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 2ND 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    ATLANTA 0 0 0
    PITTSBURGH 1 0 1 END OF THE 2ND
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: PIT - MICHEL OUELLET 17 (EVGENI MALKIN, GARY ROBERTS) 7:55
    2ND PRD: NONE
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    ATL 7 11 18
    PIT 8 9 17
    GOALIES: ATL -

    Mar 24 2:46 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 1ST 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    ATLANTA 0 0
    PITTSBURGH 1 1 END OF THE 1ST
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: PIT - MICHEL OUELLET 17 (EVGENI MALKIN, GARY ROBERTS) 7:55
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    ATL 7 7
    PIT 8 8
    GOALIES: ATL - KARI LEHTONEN


    Mar 24 1:48 PM


  • NHL
    ATLANTA 0
    PITTSBURGH 1
    1ST PRD: PIT - MICHEL OUELLET 17 (EVGENI MALKIN, GARY ROBERTS) 7:55

    Thrashers vs. PenguinsMar 24 1:20 PM