Go to enough hockey games and you’re bound to see something brand new.
Such as Marc Staal on the ice in a three-on-three overtime, as the alternate captain was for a 45-second shift in Sunday’s 3-2 shootout defeat to the Flyers at the Garden.
“Never before,” Staal said, pleased to confirm he hadn’t jumped on in some sort of communication failure from behind the bench. “Me and [Dan Girardi] used to sit at the end of the bench with our chinstraps on tight and just enjoyed the show.”
Necessity and seemingly improved mobility were the mothers of this David Quinn invention. For with Kevin Shattenkirk injured and Tony DeAngelo a healthy scratch for the second consecutive night, the coach didn’t have a slam-dunk third ‘D’ to go in the OT behind Neal Pionk and Brady Skjei.
“A lot of times, too, a defensive play can make the difference in OT,” Staal said. “You know, break up a two-on-one and go the other way.”
Actually, one of the most famous overtime goals in international hockey history came off just that kind of defensive play made by Paul Coffey in the 1984 Canada-USSR Canada Cup semifinal. The Oilers’ defenseman broke up a two-on-one then led the counter-rush into the offensive zone on which Mike Bossy got the winner. That, of course, was five-on-five hockey.
There were no odd-man rushes for Staal to disrupt in this one. There were certainly no dramatic dashes the other way led by No. 18, who did in fact take a shot that was blocked while on with Mika Zibanejad and Filip Chytil.
Staal, in his 12th season, has become more of a factor in the Blueshirts offense, joining the rush more often and getting himself into prime shooting range. That’s the game, even if not precisely his game.