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Penguins' Murray shines in Game 3 victory

Rookie goalie makes 47 saves against Capitals, shows playoff poise

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Matt Murray could have looked behind him when he was coming out of the tunnel for warmups. Marc-Andre Fleury was there, in uniform, gear all strapped up, mask on, joining him and the Pittsburgh Penguins on the ice for the first time since March 31. 

Murray could have looked to the bench when he was under siege in the first period. Fleury was there too, watching, waiting and, yes, rooting.

Murray, the Penguins 21-year-old rookie goalie, could have wondered if his leash was short in Game 3 against the Washington Capitals on Monday; if one mistake was all coach Mike Sullivan would need to give him the hook because Fleury was cleared by doctors and ready to play if needed.

Any other young goalie might have bent or buckled knowing the longtime No. 1 was ready to take his job back. Murray isn't just any young goalie and he's clearly not planning to give Fleury another chance.

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm3: Murray dazzles in win with 47 saves

With 47 saves in a 3-2 win in Game 3, a win that put the Penguins up 2-1 in the best-of-7 series, Murray proved once again that he has the goods, that he's not looking behind him or over his shoulder, that he isn't going anywhere no matter Fleury's status.

"He was for sure the best player on the ice," Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist said. "Without him, there's no way we win this game."

Nobody on either side would debate that.

The Capitals were the better team. They outshot the Penguins 49-23 and finished with an 85-36 advantage in total shot attempts. Murray and some opportunistic Pittsburgh offense rendered it all moot.

But mostly it was Murray, who has been showing the same confidence and poise in the Stanley Cup Playoffs that so many have seen from him since last season, his first as a pro, when he was dominating in the American Hockey League and setting a shutout-streak record at 300-plus minutes.

"I think it's his swagger, the way he handles himself," Penguins left wing Carl Hagelin said. "He doesn't get rattled in net. That's when you know he's the real deal. He's playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time and he's showing up every night."

This was the first night he had to show up with Fleury casting a big shadow, but that was cool with Murray.

Murray said he loves having Fleury around because of the levity he brings on the bench during stoppages in play. Murray also said he bounces ideas back and forth with Fleury, that he talks to him about plays and saves, and potentially ways he could have done it better.

In fact, it sounds like the last thing on Murray's mind was his job as the Penguins' No. 1.

"My mindset stays the same," Murray said. "I have to bring my 'A' game every night if we want to win. Everything else is noise."

Video: Matt Murray speaks to media after Game 3

Listening to Sullivan in his postgame press conference, it sounded as if he didn't even consider the potential mental hurdle Murray would have to clear in order to play his best game with Fleury hanging over his shoulder.

Then again, why would Sullivan contemplate such a scenario when he never worries about Murray's mental state to begin with?

"Matt handles his circumstance the right way," Sullivan said. "I think one of the things that Matt is really good at is he controls what he can and he doesn't really concern himself with what he can't. That's a certain maturity level that I think he has."

That maturity level has manifested itself into some sensational performances in the playoffs for a goalie who has only played in 19 NHL games to date. 

Murray is 5-1 with a 1.79 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in his six starts. He had a 31-save shutout in Game 4 against the New York Rangers in the first round, but Game 3 against the Capitals was his best yet.

He became the second rookie goalie from any NHL team to make at least 47 saves in a playoff game since shots were first recorded in 1967-68, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The other was Scott Darling of the Chicago Blackhawks, who made 50 saves against the Nashville Predators in Game 4 of the first round last year.

Murray also became the first Penguins goalie to make at least 47 saves in a regulation win during the playoffs, according to Elias. 

"His poise, his quiet confidence and his calm back there are well beyond his years, well beyond his experience level," Penguins defenseman Ian Cole said. "There are goalies in this game that still don't have that level of poise and calm and unflappability. We rely on him quite a bit."

Video: Mike Sullivan speaks to media after Game 3

Too much in Game 3.

Murray made 14 saves in the first period and another 14 in the second as the Penguins built a 3-0 lead on goals by Hornqvist, Tom Kuhnhackl and Hagelin. 

He was under constant pressure in the third period and gave up two goals on 21 shots, but we dare you to find a goalie who would have done better under those same circumstances, with Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson firing away at him.

Carlson and Ovechkin combined for 11 shots and 22 shot attempts in the third period. Ovechkin scored on a rocket of a snap shot from above the left circle at 8:02, a shot Murray said he should have had.

"It was obviously a bomb, but I've got to save that," Murray said. "Ten times out of 10."

Murray deserved a pass Monday. He's the reason the Penguins won. And he has no reason to look behind him or over his shoulder heading into Game 4 either.

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