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Penguins' Murray Pivotal In Stanley Cup Run

by Tom Gulitti / Pittsburgh Penguins

SAN JOSE -- There was finally a moment that might have overwhelmed Pittsburgh Penguins rookie goalie Matt Murray.

It came when defenseman Brian Dumoulin handed Murray the Stanley Cup following the Penguins' 3-1 win against the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on Sunday.

Murray ended up in elite company joining Ken Dryden (1971 with the Montreal Canadiens), Patrick Roy (1986 with Montreal) and Cam Ward (2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes) as rookie goalies to win the Stanley Cup. His 15 playoff wins equaled the NHL record for a rookie goalie that is shared by Ward, Roy and Ron Hextall (1987 with the Philadelphia Flyers).

At 22, Murray is still young, but this was something every hockey player dreams about and his emotions were so great he couldn't recall afterward what the experience was like.

"I don't know. I can't even remember," Murray said. "I blacked out when I raised that thing, to be honest."

Murray can watch the video and see that he let out a big yell as he lifted the Cup, kissing it twice while taking a short victory lap before passing it off to forward Bryan Rust.

"You grow up thinking about this stuff, getting to raise that Cup," Murray said. "It was a lot heavier than I thought it was. What a moment."

It was not a moment anyone could have predicted for Murray when he began the season in the American Hockey League with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

"I probably won't believe this was real until at least I don't know. Who knows?" Murray said. "I'm just enjoying the moment right now like I was trying do all playoffs long. This is when you get to really enjoy things."

The 2012 third-round draft pick was called up to make his NHL debut on Dec. 19 against Carolina, but returned to the AHL after four starts. Murray was recalled for good on Feb. 27, and finished the regular season with a 9-2-1 record, 2.00 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and one shutout.

With No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury sidelined with his second concussion of the season at the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Penguins did not miss a beat with Murray in net.

"[Fleury] got us here, and with his injury, Murray ran with that," Penguins defenseman Ian Cole said. "He was out of his mind. He was unbelievable. You enough can't say enough for how he stepped up, stepped up huge for us. He was a guy we could rely on all through the playoffs."

Murray finished the playoffs with a 15-6 record, 2.08 GAA, .923 save percentage and one shutout. What was most impressive was the way he was able to rebound from poor performances. He was 6-0 with a 1.63 goals-against average and .936 save percentage following a loss this postseason, including an 18-save performance on Sunday.

"There's no secret to it," Murray said. "I just tried compete every time on the ice and that's what I was able to do."

Murray struggled a little in the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning and when Penguins coach Mike Sullivan turned to Fleury to start Game 5 of that series, it appeared Murray's run might be over. But Sullivan didn't hesitate to turn back to Murray for Game 6 after Fleury faltered in a 4-3 overtime loss.

With the Penguins facing elimination, Murray demonstrated his mental toughness by making 28 saves in a 5-2 victory.

From there, there was no question that Murray would be the Penguins starter for as far they went. Sullivan stuck by Murray after he allowed three goals on San Jose's first five shots in a 4-2 loss in Game 5 of the Cup Final on Thursday and was rewarded with a championship on Sunday.

"One of the things I really love about him is his makeup because I think of all the positions in the game that's the one you need it the most," Sullivan said of Murray. "You're the last line of defense and you let in a goal that, hey, maybe everybody thinks you should have had. A lot of young players it affects and rattles their confidence. Matt has a demeanor about him that he doesn't let it affect his next save.

"He's able to just stay in the moment and try to make that next save. It usually takes players years to acquire that type of maturity and he has it at such a young age. It's impressive."

Murray wasn't tested often in Game 6, but was sharp when he had to be, particularly in the second period when he stopped 12 of 13 shots. He was mostly a spectator in the third period when the Penguins limited the Sharks to two shots on goal.

But, with the Stanley Cup on the line and the Penguins clinging to a 2-1 lead, the third period was still "nerve racking" for Murray until Patric Hornqvist's empty-net goal with 1:02 remaining.

"It's not easy," Murray said. "Our team gave up [two] shots the whole third period, so what an effort by our team. We had some great blocks and a great empty netter there to seal the deal."

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