Penguins goalie Matt Murray heating up as season hits stretch run
By winning two Stanley Cup rings before his 24th birthday, Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray established himself as the type of player who ramps up his game as the stakes get higher.
Murray wouldn’t say he’s the kind of guy who particularly likes playing at this time of year, though.
“I just like hockey, honestly,” he said with a grin. “All year. I like it all year.”
It’s easy to like hockey after the kind of performance Murray turned in Thursday night. He made 25 saves to backstop the Penguins to a critical 3-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, recording his fourth shutout of the year.
Murray is 5-0-2 with a .929 save percentage in his last seven starts.
“I think Murr did a great job,” defenseman Marcus Pettersson said. “Not a lot of rebounds coming off him, so it made it pretty simple for us defensemen, trying to keep it on the outside and knowing that Murr was going to take the shots.”
Murray was aided by a defense corps that played a particularly physical game. Erik Gudbranson, Jack Johnson and Zach Trotman combined for 18 hits.
It was an approach that came in handy against a Columbus team that often creates offense by getting bodies into the blue paint.
“It’s part of their identity, just getting pucks to the net with traffic,” Murray said. “For sure, they did a lot of that tonight. I think the league is trending toward that in general. It makes a goalie’s job a lot harder when you can tip or screen it. They’ve always been really good at that. I think this time of year, the game tends to tighten up and you tend to see more of that.”
Murray thought one other aspect of his team’s game played a bigger role in helping him record the shutout, however.
“We managed the puck well, which I think is key,” Murray said. “We got the puck deep when we needed to and didn’t turn pucks over. So that doesn’t give them anything off the rush, which is obviously huge, especially this time of year. That was the biggest thing. We just managed the puck really well and played a good, smart team game.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .