If you ask James Wisniewski, it wasn't so much the finish on Ryan Murray's game-winning goal on Sunday night as it was the play that made it all happen.
Wisniewski got a birds-eye view of it as Murray's partner on defense, too. There was a 19-year-old kid in his first NHL game and in his second week of competition following six months of shoulder surgery rehabilitation, and his first assignment was to defend the likes of Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Beau Bennett for the Pittsburgh Penguins. After a frantic start that saw the Penguins score in the opening minute, the Blue Jackets settled in and Murray felt his game improved as the game grew older.
The smart read-and-react play by Murray late in overtime after Malkin turned the puck over at the offensive blue line was impressive, Wisniewski said, but the overall body of work was even more encouraging.
"That's just a smart hockey player," Wisniewski told BlueJackets.com. "I would say he and I played some good defense on one of the best players in the world, poked the puck away and he saw that they had two guys deep. I was below him, and (in that situation), you go. I don't care if there's 20 seconds left in Game 7 of the finals, if you can make it a 3-on-2, you have to do it.
"He was very smart, very composed. Hopefully we play together for a long time, and we can work on things where we're just yin and yang. He knows what I'm doing and I know where he's going and it just becomes second nature. That's what we can work on from here on out."
Wisniewski played 23:17 and Murray logged 23:06 - second only to the pairing of Nikita Nikitin and David Savard - and drew most of their ice against the Malkin line while serving as the top penalty-killing pair. It was obvious that Wisniewski and Murray had practiced together this week and were comfortable with one another, and having a veteran presence beside him helped ease Murray's early-game nerves.
Another way to eradicate first-game butterflies is to score the game-winning goal, but Murray said he's looking forward to using Sunday's game as a learning experience and something to build on.
"My first couple of shifts, I made a couple of brain-dead plays and didn't do too great," Murray said. "I felt a little nervous at the start. Toward the middle and end of the game, I started to feel a lot better.
"There wasn't a whole lot of time left in overtime and I figured it was my last rush, so I said 'I might as well.' I gave it everything to get up in the play and (RJ Umberger) made an awesome play to get it over to me. I just buried my head and luckily it went in."