Matt Murray shines in shutout performance against Canucks
February 14, 2017 11:10 PM
Sidney Crosby congratulates Matt Murray after a shutout win Tuesday against Vancouver at PPG Paints Arena.
By Jason Mackey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It almost seemed like the Penguins were playing a game of keepaway with the Vancouver Canucks at times Tuesday during a 4-0 smashing at PPG Paints Arena.
During one particular stretch in the second period, Sidney Crosby’s line kept the puck for so long that it had to head off for a line change.
The Penguins did an excellent job of tamping down the Canucks’ chances Tuesday — except the occasional high danger scoring opportunity they coughed up.
And when they did, goaltender Matt Murray delivered one of his best performances of the season, stopping 29 shots to record his third shutout and first since Dec. 12, 2016.
“He was phenomenal,” Olli Maatta said of Murray. “We gave up too many Grade-A chances. Couple breakaways, two-on-ones. He did a great job giving us a chance to win. He deserved the shutout.”
Murray may have deserved it, but don’t count on him celebrating it.
Not to mention noticing it or caring whatsoever that it occurred.
As focused a goaltender as you’ll see, you could probably land a plane next to Murray on the ice and he’d still want to talk about stopping the next shot.
“I don’t know,” Murray responded when asked whether shutouts mean a little more. “Sure, it’s nice. But at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter as long as you get the win. That’s more important. That’s what I try and focus on.”
For several stretches of this one, it seemed like Murray was more focused on making Canucks right wing Jack Skille as miserable as possible.
At the 16:32 mark of the second period, with the Penguins protecting a 1-0 lead, Ian Cole executed an ill-advised pinch, and Skille found himself on a breakaway.
Skille ripped a shot from the slot. Murray gloved it, no problem.
With the Penguins ahead, 2-0, at 7:37 of the third period, Skille won a puck off Maatta’s stick and tried to score backhanded.
Matt Murray stopped 29 shots Tuesday to record his third shutout and first since Dec. 12, 2016. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
Nothing doing again.
“‘Murr’ played well,” Phil Kessel said. “He’s been great for us this year, and he made some big saves.”
Several of the Canucks’ high-danger chances stemmed from the Penguins mismanagement the puck, a point driven home by coach Mike Sullivan afterward.
“When we force teams to have to play 200 feet and we get on the right side of people and the right side of the puck, I think we’re a much more difficult team to play against,” Sullivan said. “There were a few chances where I think we mismanaged the puck a little bit. As a result, they got a few quality chances. Matt was obviously there to make the big save for us.”
That, of course, is hardly new for Murray, the reigning Cup-winning goaltender and a 22-year-old going on 52 when it comes to poise and focus.
Tuesday’s win also helped him maintain his NHL lead in wins by a rookie goaltender, a category his should dominate this season now that he has seemingly pulled ahead from Marc-Andre Fleury in the Penguins’ goaltending timeshare.
But until Tuesday, Murray had just two shutouts.
That’s as many as Thomas Greiss of the Islanders and five shy of the NHL lead.
Just don’t expect Murray to take even a modicum of credit.
“When we play the right way and don’t force things on offense, we’re a hard team to play against,” said Murray, who improved to 21-6-2 overall, 13-1-2 at PPG Paints Arena. “We don’t feed into other teams’ transitions and stuff like that. I think that’s what we did tonight. We did a really good job of that. I think we carried the play pretty much all night.”
Well, not all night, as some of the chances-against could attest, including two shots two seconds apart at 11:55 and 11:57 of the opening period while the game was still scoreless.
But for Murray, it probably felt that way because of how solid he was for the Penguins start to finish.
“I thought Matt had a solid game,” Sullivan said. “I think we had a few breakdowns where we gave them a few high-quality chances, a couple of two-on-ones, one that resulted in a breakaway. We got big saves from Matt at key times during the game, when the game was close. Matt had a real strong game.”
Jason Mackey: email@example.com and Twitter @JMackeyPG.
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