James Neal didn't shed the label of trade-deadline bust because of a fluke shot. He did so because of what teammates are calling a valiant effort. Neal is battling an injury - no one is revealing the nature of it - and was questionable to play against the Lightning in Game 4 on Wednesday. He not only played, but he beat Tampa Bay goalie Dwayne Roloson on a bad-angle shot to lift the Penguins to a 3-2 double-overtime victory. "I'm really happy for him because nobody knows what he's endured over the past 48 or 72 hours," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. Neal's injury figures to remain a mystery. He did not practice Tuesday and did not participate in yesterday's morning skate, raising speculation that he might not be able to play against the Lightning. He was seen talking with Penguins' doctors an hour before the game. No one is saying what is wrong with Neal. "That's for someone else to tell you," Orpik said. "But a lot of people wouldn't have been playing. He sucked it up and he played well." Neal's goal was only his second since being acquired from the Dallas Stars in a Feb. 21 trade. He hadn't scored since March 8 against Buffalo. Even though the goal won't land on any highlight reels - Neal's shot floated over Roloson's glove and somehow eluded the veteran goaltender - it surely gave the 23-year-old left wing a huge lift. Neal has been an effective two-way player with the Penguins, but he knows general manager Ray Shero traded for him because of his ability to score goals.
Neal's goal ends frustrating drought
Pittsburgh Tribune Review | Apr 21