Not lost in the Penguins' seven-goal offensive outburst on Wednesday night is what transpired in their own end of the rink. Matt Murray furthered his reputation as a superb playoff performer with a 24-save shutout in Pittsburgh's 7-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 on Wednesday at PPG Paints Arena.
Eight minutes into the first period, Flyers forward Scott Laughton was wide-open for a back-door tap-in. Laughton bobbled the initial feed, giving Murray enough time to sprawl out and deny him from tying the game, making an incredible goal-line glove save to keep the Penguins' early first-period lead intact.
"It's huge. If that goes in, it's 1-1 and maybe we're talking about a different result," Sidney Crosby said. "After that we get a couple quick ones, that really gave us a lot of momentum."
From there, the Penguins took over as Carl Hagelin scored two minutes later. Evgeni Malkin added a beautiful backhand tally as Pittsburgh shelled Flyers' goaltender Brian Elliot for five goals and Petr Mrazek for another two.
"I thought Matt made some real timely saves for us," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "The one in the first period especially, it jumps out at me, it gives your team a big lift when you get a timely save like that at a key time in the game. That's the type of impact it has on both the team and the game."
The even-kneeled 6-foot-4, 179-pound goaltender out of Thunder Bay, Ontario doesn't have any doubts in his abilities. From bursting onto the scene as a rookie and leading the Penguins to the Stanley Cup in 2016, to doing it again in 2017, still technically as a rookie, Murray can elevate his game when his efforts matter most.
Despite having an inconsistent regular season, posting a 2.92 goals-against average and .907 save percentage, there's a lot of confidence within the Penguins' locker room that Murray will always bring his best at the right time.
"It feels like every game he gives us a chance to win," defenseman Olli Maatta said. "He makes the necessary saves. It seems like he's never panicking. It doesn't matter if a goal goes in, we score, whatever the situation, he's always the same in there and that calms you down."
With his shutout tonight, Murray is picking up where he left off last June. Murray hasn't allowed a playoff goal since the Nashville Predators' Viktor Arvidsson scored at 13:08 of the second period in Game 4 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals. With shutouts against the Predators in Game 5 and 6 and then tonight against the Flyers, Murray hasn't allowed a goal in the playoffs in his last 206:26 minutes played, establishing a new franchise record.
The 23-year-old has crafted an excellent playoff resume so far in his career, especially at PPG Paints Arena. Murray's 14 home playoff wins are tops among NHL goaltenders over the last three seasons, sporting a sparkling 14-2 record at home with a 1.69 goals against average and .939 save percentage.
The strong opener from Murray is important for setting the tone in what the Penguins hope will be another long playoff run. Murray will look to continue his dominant play at home on Friday, with Game 2 serving as another chance to continue the pursuit of this team's aspirations.
"A win is a win. We'll take it, obviously," Murray said. "In the playoffs it doesn't matter if you win 7-0 or 1-0 in overtime, everything resets after that. We'll take the win and move on to the next one."