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NHL Stadium Series

Matt Murray felt nervous, but it didn't show

Penguins goalie makes 36 saves in victory against Flyers

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- It shouldn't be surprising to hear a 22-year-old rookie goalie admit to being nervous before playing in front of 67,318 fans in his first NHL outdoor game. Then again, Matt Murray isn't a normal rookie goalie.

Murray is a Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Admitting to nerves isn't typical from him. He barely did it during the Penguins' run to the championship in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. That's why it was jarring to hear him do it Saturday.

"I think in such a crazy environment there's a lot of nerves," Murray said.

He didn't show any. He never does.

Murray fought off his nerves by making 16 of his 36 saves in the first period, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins keep their lead and eventually defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 at Heinz Field in the 2017 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game.

"You try to treat it like just another hockey game, but in reality it's a lot bigger stage," Murray said. "It was my first outdoor game, so definitely felt a little bit more energy coming out of that tunnel and definitely felt pretty good to get the two points."

Murray said getting tested early helped him fight off the pregame jitters.

He made eight saves in the first 8:18, including point-blank stops on Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek in the first 91 seconds. He watched Sidney Crosby ease some of his burden by scoring to put the Penguins up 1-0 at 11:18.

Murray kept it 1-0 after 20 minutes by making eight saves in the final 5:21, including five in the last 2:09.

"Once you get out there and once the puck drops you kind of try and put everything aside, no matter whether they're carrying the play or whether we're carrying the play," Murray said. "Everything just kind of fades away and you just focus on what you have to do."

Video: PHI@PIT: Murray gobbles up Couturier's wrister

Murray made 11 saves on 12 shots in the second period. He made another nine saves in the third, including arguably his biggest of the night at 11:30, when the Penguins were holding onto a 3-2 lead and only 11 seconds into a penalty kill.

Murray watched Shayne Gostisbehere's shot from the point fly over his head and bounce off the glass behind him. The puck came to Brayden Schenn in front, but Murray had his right pad down to deny his shot from the slot.

"He doesn't seem to be fazed or overwhelmed by the stage," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said, repeating words he said over and over during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. "He showed that all of last year in the postseason, and so tonight on a fairly big stage and a game that has a lot of eyeballs on it, he just goes about his business and stops the puck for us. I just think that's part of his makeup. I think that's part of what makes Matt as good a goalie as he is."

He's been good enough again this season to push Marc-Andre Fleury onto the trading block before the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline on March 1 at 3 p.m. At the very least it seems inevitable that Murray will push Fleury out of Pittsburgh, where he was the No. 1 goalie for a decade until the playoffs last season, when Fleury was hurt and Murray was dominant.

Murray is 23-7-3 this season and needs one win to tie the Penguins' single-season record for wins by a rookie, set by Gary Inness in 1974-75.

"He doesn't say a whole lot," Sullivan said. "He just does his job."

He said something different Saturday, but only after doing his job. His words might have been surprising; his play was not.

"I had a blast," Murray said.

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