Pascal Dupuis was the man of the night, scoring a pair of goals and registering an assist as the Penguins climbed back from two down in the second period to defeat the Maple Leafs 3-2.
From my vantage, it read more as an endorsement of Jordan Staal's gradual maturation into a legitimate impact player.
#11 / Center / Pittsburgh Penguins
Sep 10, 1988
|2011 - Jordan Staal||46||22||14||36||8||30||5||3||0||108||20.4|
At one point in the season it seemed like the proper thing to do was announce that Jordan Staal had unequivocally arrived, and proceed to get giddy over his early contributions. A good October and an even better November gave some credence to the belief that that was the case.
Still, one maligned group that I'm a card carrying member of -- let's call them 'skeptics' -- cried out: Nay! Tis early in the season. Hold back such prognostications lest ye confuse a streak with a full-bodied change.
December came and the streak theory seemed relevant. Staal failed to register a single point in seven games between Nov. 29 and Dec. 20. Injuries assuredly had something to do that that, but any and all potency was gone.
Jordan Staal was again the Jordan Staal of yesteryear, a player valued for his physical tools and occasional offensive flourishes, while frequently frustrating for his lack of consistency at both ends of the ice.
Staal wound up missing most of January with another injury, or a continuation of the same one. Or a bunch of other injuries. You can never really speak of these things with certainty when it comes to the Penguins.
When he returned in February, he started scoring at his hot, early-season clip again. We're now in March and he's riding a six-game point streak.
Even still, the opening and closing games of this current streak sandwich a four-game goalless skid. Nothing to get worried or worked up about, naturally. Every player goes through skids like that. Sometimes though, with Staal, you just began to expect that streak to extend.
It's just that this time it didn't really feel like a skid or the end of a tail end of a streak. Staal was still using his size well, contributing effectively on offense, not looking like a guy who was about to enter a prolonged spell without a goal.
And tonight made it obvious that Staal wouldn't have to wait long, as he scored the game-tying goal in the third period that helped pave the way to the Penguins' eventual victory.
The Pens have now won seven in a row and are 19-4-1 in their last 24 games. That's very good. They're still six points behind the Rangers. That's not so good, but better than they were of days ago. If the Penguins can keep pace after Friday and Sunday games against Florida and Boston, next Thursday's game at Madison Square Garden could have massive implications.
Maybe I'm getting a little ahead of myself, something the Penguins certainly can't do as they enter this three-game stretch against all three Eastern Conference division leaders.