Matt Murray started in goal for the Penguins against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena. Nothing new for the wunderkind netminder.
Murray recorded 40 saves in the contest. A heavy workload for sure, but nothing Murray hasn't handled with aplomb in the past.
Murray picked up the win, 5-2, for the Pens. His 16th of the season. The 57th of his career. A win like any other before.
Except that it wasn't.
Murray started in goal with a heavy heart due to the recent passing of his father James. There's no doubt that James was in Murray's thoughts and close to his heart throughout the entire evening. So, yeah, this win wasn't just another win.
"Yeah, of course," Murray said when asked if the win was extra special. "It was a great feeling getting back to normal and getting in a good game like that, getting a big win for the team."
Murray's last start came on Jan. 4 against Carolina. He left the team to return home to be with his family as his father fell ill, and ultimately passed away. Seven games and 26 days have fallen since then.
But Murray didn't appear to have any rust from the long layoff. He moved side-to-side with efficiency, tracked pucks through traffic and responded perfectly and made the timely save when his team needed it.
"I just tried to come in and forget about the fact that I haven't played in a while and just try to get lost in the game," Murray said. "That's what happened. I felt pretty good out there for the most part, and the team played really well."
Murray was there for the Pens when they needed him. And they tried to return the favor.
"His effort inspired the whole team," said Bryan Rust, who scored two goals in the game. "We were fighting for him tonight. He played unbelievable. Hats off to him and everything that he's been through."
"We're here for him and whatever he needs," forward Tom Kuhnhackl said. "We're a huge family here and are trying to support each other as much as we can."
The loss of a parent is one of the most difficult things to deal with in anyone's life, but even more so for a 23-year-old. But as always, Murray has navigated the situation with maturity well beyond his years.
Matt's a mature kid," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "He's grounded. He has good perspective on where he's at and the opportunity in front of him. He's just a great kid. I think because of that he handles adverse situations extremely well."
Murray's approach to life is similar to his approach to goaltending, and it is a big part of his early successes in the NHL. Take everything as it comes.
"That's how I approach every game," Murray said. "For sure this one meant a little more to me personally, but still, that's all you can really do is just take things one shot at a time and just play your heart out on every single shot."
That's exactly what Murray did. Played his heart out.
His heart may be hurting, but it'll never be broken.