Penguins' Murray turning into unlikely scoring source
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- If the New York Islanders established a scouting report for their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series listing the most dangerous scorers on the Pittsburgh Penguins vaunted roster, it's fair to say Douglas Murray's name probably wasn't on it.
Boasting one of the most star-studded lineups in hockey, there are several players on the Penguins' blue line who can contribute with timely scoring. Like Norris Trophy finalist Kris Letang, who has done his part by totaling two goals and six points in five playoff games. The two goals entering Game 6 Saturday on Long Island (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS) ties Letang with six other defensemen for the most in the postseason. That list includes Murray, who came into the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs having scored two goals combined in the past three seasons.
"I always try to contribute with getting the puck to the net," Murray said. "It's something I've worked on for years. I think I've got some pretty good shots on the net in the past two years without results. I'm just going to stay at it and hope to get more there. Also, the last goal was a pretty lucky bounce -- you need those sometimes. Whenever you can contribute, it's great."
Murray may have benefitted from a lucky bounce when he scored Pittsburgh's second goal in the Penguins' 4-0 win against Islanders in Game 5. But his goal in the second period of Game 4 was pure snipe. Taking a feed from Evgeni Malkin, Murray wired a shot that beat Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov to the glove side for his first playoff goal in three years.
With two goals in his past three playoff games, Murray has doubled his career postseason goal total. And he's done it by keeping things simple.
"I'm never going to be a player they're going to expect to have some creative offense out there," he said. "For me to start making moves on the blue line or something like that would just be bad for the team. Obviously, as soon as you get a shot opportunity you've got to take it and get it to the net."
When the Penguins acquired Murray from the San Jose Sharks on March 25, it was to help provide toughness and big hits -- it's how he earned his nickname "Crankshaft." The nastiness that has marked Murray's eight NHL seasons remains a large part of his game. Now in addition to throwing big body shots, he's taking shots on net -- and they're starting to go in.
"I think if you ask him, he's fine if he doesn't get any shots in the game," Murray's defense partner, Matt Niskanen, said. "That's great that a couple have gone in and I hope that he does keep shooting if he gets the opportunity. Whoever has the opportunity to chip in on the offense, we'll take it."
As long as they're going in, Murray will continue to look to fire pucks toward the net. But being surrounded by world-class passers Malkin and Sidney Crosby certainly helps when it comes to getting good looks offensively. Murray had that kind of company in San Jose playing alongside Joe Thornton, one of the League's best passers. But few players draw attention and create open ice for teammates quite like Pittsburgh's two star centers.
"I've had some good looks in the past, too, but especially with Geno [Malkin] and Sid, they draw a lot of extra attention," Murray said. "They're obviously making great plays, so it gives you time to shoot."
Murray competed in the Western Conference Finals in consecutive seasons with San Jose, in 2010 and 2011. Now that he has the opportunity with a Penguins squad many expect to compete for the Stanley Cup, he just wants to contribute any way he can. If that means scoring goals, then he'll look to keep striking while the iron is hot.
"When you get a couple in, the confidence goes up with your shot and you tend to think less," Murray said. "I've gone through times where it seems like every shot I've taken has been blocked. Then you start thinking and you become slower. You just need to let it rip."