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Murray responds like veteran for Penguins

Pittsburgh's rookie goalie handles benching with maturity, returns with 28 saves in Game 6 win

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

TAMPA -- Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray is celebrating his 22nd birthday Wednesday.

"He plays like he's 30," Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist said. "He's awesome."

He certainly responded like a veteran in a 5-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at Amalie Arena on Tuesday to help the Penguins extend the series.

Game 7 will be Thursday at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh (8 p.m., TV: NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Murray, who was inserted back into the Penguins' lineup after watching Game 5 as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup, made 28 saves in a must-win situation. He made 11 saves through the first two periods and stopped 17 of 19 shots with the Lightning pressing for a comeback in the third.

"I think that's just part of his DNA," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Murray's composure in the face of pressure. "He has a calming influence. He doesn't get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. Usually it takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive."

Murray didn't just need his composure to be his best attribute in Game 6. He needed it after Sullivan told him he wasn't going to play in Game 5 after starting 13 consecutive games in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

An intimidated goalie might have succumbed to that benching; Murray took it in stride.

"That's out of my control," Murray said. "That's 100 percent the coach's decision, and he's going to make the decision he thinks is going to give us the best chance to win. It's not my job to worry about his decision. It's my job to be ready if my name is called, and if my name is called, to go out and play my heart out and compete. I'm not really worried about that too much.

"I thought I handled it pretty well."

He must have, because he was good in Game 6, if also a bit lucky.

Video: Sidney Crosby and Matt Murray after tonight's win

The first shot Murray saw got past him, but Jonathan Drouin's would-be go-ahead goal at 5:12 of the first period was disallowed because he was ruled offside upon review after Sullivan issued a coach's challenge.

"The right call that was made," Murray said. "So you kind of move past it once a decision is made."

Murray moved past it by making four saves in the first period and seven more in the second, none more important than his glove save on Ryan Callahan's redirection from in front of the net 45 seconds into the second period.

"That was my first real test," Murray said. "That was probably a big save just for the timing of it."

The Penguins gave Murray a 3-0 lead before the Lightning predictably pushed in the third period. The Penguins predictably sat back, letting their goalie get peppered with shots. They didn't do anything to help him on the goals he allowed either.

Brian Boyle's first goal was a pass that went in off of a backchecking Phil Kessel to make it 3-1.

Video: PIT@TBL, Gm6: Murray denies Drouin, Palat

Boyle's second goal was a great shot from the right circle over Murray's blocker and into the top left corner to pull the Lightning within one, 3-2. But Murray was run into by center Matt Cullen a split second before Boyle scored. It didn't help that Boyle had all day to shoot.

Murray responded with four more saves before Penguins forward Bryan Rust put it out of reach with a goal at 17:52 of the third period.

"He's a real hard competitor, and I think one of his biggest strengths is just his ability to stay in the moment and not get overwhelmed by the circumstances surrounding him," Sullivan said of Murray. "He controls what he can. I think he has a calming influence on the group."

And he's only 22.

"He doesn't look like a young kid who is feeling the pressure," Penguins forward Chris Kunitz said. "If he was, we probably wouldn't be playing this many games this late in the season."

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