DETROIT - In many ways, this was just like any other day for Max Talbot.
He woke up in the morning feeling like it was going to be the best day of his life - and it turned out that it actually was. The gritty winger ended up becoming an unlikely Game 7 hero by scoring both goals for the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 2-1 victory over Detroit to win the Stanley Cup. Talbot was already the most popular guy in the team's locker-room but his stock has to be on the rise after scoring four times in the championship series.
Even though linemate Evgeni Malkin famously pointed out that Talbot has "bad hands," it's impossible to ignore how many big goals he scores.
"It might sound stupid, but hockey is a lot in the head," Talbot said after Friday's win. "Because you look at my skills ... there are a lot of players in the AHL that have more skills than me. And I'm not lying there. But when you think about it, a lot of plays in the head and what you can believe in and who you believe in, it's special.
"I just can't believe today that we won the Stanley Cup. That's so special."
It wouldn't have happened without him.
His first goal came after he forced Brad Stuart to lose the puck behind the net, eventually getting a pass from Malkin and beating Chris Osgood through the legs. On the second goal, he came in on a 2-on-1 and roofed a perfect wrist shot.
"Those were two nice goals," said Osgood. "I complimented him during the handshake."
The 25-year-old has come amazingly far after falling all the way to the eighth round of the 2002 draft before getting selected by the Penguins.
Talbot remembers watching the draft lottery on television when the team found out it won the right to draft Sidney Crosby in 2005 and thinking that he might never make it in the NHL. He would go on to spend parts of three seasons in the American Hockey League before cracking the Penguins roster.
It's a good thing he did.
"Thank God for Max Talbot," said Bill Guerin.
Truth be told, he wasn't all that comfortable with the attention.
Talbot always seem to remain positive and can be described as the ultimate team player. He's best friends with Marc-Andre Fleury and goes out of his way to make sure the goalie is comfortable before games.
Even after the biggest game of his life, he was eager to share the spotlight.
"I don't really care about the two goals," said Talbot. "Everybody's talking to me about that. I'm here because of that, but we won the game. Flower made some great saves, Geno won the Conn Smythe. Everybody sacrificed their body. Miroslav goes on the ice and blocks a shot.
"This is how you win championships."