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Pens rally around Murray in win

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

DENVER - As the clock ticked down in the second period of Pittsburgh's matchup with the Colorado Avalanche on Friday at Pepsi Center, Gabriel Landeskog skated the puck through the neutral zone. As he approached the blue line, the Avalanche forward sailed it into the zone.

While it seemed harmless enough, Landeskog's dump-in attempt ended up taking a weird sideways bounce past Penguins goalie Matt Murray to give the Avalanche a 2-1 lead.

It was a tough break, but the Penguins didn't let it get them down. Quite the opposite, in fact, from what Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan saw from behind the bench.

"I thought the chatter on the bench after it happened was great," Sullivan said. "Patric Hornqvist in particular really took some leadership there on the bench. They were talking about, 'Hey, that happens, forget about it, it's hockey. Let's just drop the puck and keep playing.'"

They did just that, and once the horn sounded to signal the end of the period, every single one of the Penguins players waited for Murray before they headed back into the locker room.

"They made sure they gave him a tap on the pads and encouraged him," Sullivan said. "That's an indication of the type of team we're becoming."

The team rallied around their goaltender and eventually earned a 4-3 overtime win, with forward Jared McCann scoring the tally. Afterward, he talked about how much they wanted to get the job done for Murray.

"You're going to have crappy bounces every once in a while," McCann said. "We had one there. 'Murr' was solid for us all night yet again. He deserved this one."

Murray really was solid from the drop of the puck, beginning with a kick-pad save on All-Star forward Nathan MacKinnon. From there, Murray came up with some more tough stops against a talented Colorado lineup, keeping his team in the game as the Avalanche tilted the ice in the first period.

He continued that strong play into the second, with the fluke goal being just that - a fluke. While a shot like that might seem harmless, those are actually really difficult to stop just not knowing how they're going to go.

"If you look at the replay - and we looked at it like a hundred times - it was going straight and then it just took a huge leap," McCann said. "That's just tough to read for anybody."

"I'm just trying to get out and play, settle it down so our D can make a play and it bounces sideways on me," Murray said. "So I just brushed it off."

Murray made a big blocker stop at the start of the third that sent the Penguins down the other way, where Bryan Rust evened the score at 2-2. Sullivan praised his play for the entirety of the period.

"I thought he responded real well," Sullivan said. "He had a solid game. Obviously that fluke goal is a tough one but I really liked how he responded to it. He didn't let it get him down. He just stayed in the moment."

After Evgeni Malkin gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead with under five minutes left to play, the Avalanche forced overtime by deflecting a shot through traffic with just 30.4 seconds left in regulation. But as Murray said, the Penguins continued to stay resilient no matter what happened and got the job done.

"I think just at the end it was a whole team effort," said forward Dominik Kahun, who finished with three assists in the game. "They scored the tying goal and we played better in OT and we deserved the win."

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