Matt Murray continues to rewrite the Pens’ record books for a rookie goaltender.
The 21-year-old netminder was the youngest player in Pittsburgh history to appear in a playoff game and record a shutout, and was also the first rookie goalie in the NHL to win four of his first five playoff starts since 2011 (Michal Neuvirth).
But Murray seems to follow each strong performance with one even more stellar. Which is why Murray’s 47 saves in Monday’s 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals in Game 3 of Pittsburgh’s Second Round series at CONSOL Energy Center might have been his best yet, putting the Penguins in front with a 2-1 series lead.
“Without Murray there’s no way we win this game,” said forward Patric Hornqvist, who tallied his fourth goal of the postseason in the contest.
Washington controlled most of the tempo, hammering the Penguins goalie with a barrage of shots. The Capitals outshot the Pens 49-23. But Murray turned aside all but two of those shots.
“They had the puck all night and we didn’t,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “Luckily our goaltender was tremendous.”
Despite his individual success, Murray was thinking more about his team’s success.
“It’s a good feeling,” Murray said about his career performance. “At the end of the day though all that matters is we won. We can’t think too much about it as we move forward."
“We were the better team in the first two games, but they were obviously the better team tonight. That’s playoff hockey. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Murray was especially strong early and late. He made three difficult glove saves in the opening three minutes of the game. Murray kept Washington off the scoresheet for two periods as the Pens built a 3-0 lead.
“He showed a lot of poise. He was our best player,” said Carl Hagelin, who netted the game-winner. “It’s cool to see a young guy like that have so much confidence and so much swagger and hopefully he can continue doing that.”
Washington put forth a relentless effort in the third period with 24 shots on goal. Murray’s bid for a shutout was broken when Alex Ovechkin scored at 8:02 of the third period. Justin Williams would add a second goal with just 55 seconds remaining. But even though the Caps pressured for the entire final 10 minutes of the game, Murray found a way to keep the puck out.
“We sat back a lot more than we wanted to,” Murray said about his team surrendering two late goals. “They definitely had us on our heels. The clock was our friend at the end.”
Murray was also a friend to his teammates all night.
“That definitely wasn’t our A-game,” center Nick Bonino said. “One guy brought it, and he was in the net. He saved the game for us.”