Playing on back-to-back nights for the second time in the past two weeks, Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray had one thing going for him Sunday at PPG Paints Arena: Space.
“Columbus is a short flight, which helped,” Murray said, referring to the location of his team’s game the night before.
He also had one thing working against him: Time.
“We lost an hour too, right?” Murray said, referring to the beginning of daylight saving time.
In the end, none of that mattered.
Little does to Murray these days, who is swatting away potential distractions or complications like unscreened lobs from the point.
He’s playing some of his best hockey of the season, and Sunday night’s game was no exception. He made 39 saves to lead the Penguins to a 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins, who were 14-0-5 in their previous 19 games.
He said staying off the ice Sunday morning and going through the recovery regimen prescribed by the team’s strength and conditioning staff was all he needed to be fresh for the tail end of a back-to-back.
“Those strength guys, they do a heck of a job giving us what we need to feel good,” Murray said. “Physically, I feel really good.”
Murray has made eight consecutive starts for the Penguins. He’s 5-2-1 with a .931 save percentage during that span.
“It doesn’t honestly surprise me at all, said winger Jared McCann, a junior hockey teammate of Murray with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. “In the Soo, he was just like this. He was the reason we made it so far down there. He’s a great goaltender.”
A 36-save performance in a 5-1 Penguins win in Montreal on March 2 – the first time Murray played in back-to-back games this season – may have been the jumping off point for his recent run of fine form, not that the 24-year-old goalie has spent much time pondering the proposition.
“I think every game’s a building block,” Murray said. “You want to build each and every game and get better and better. At the same time, every game, you reset, too. It’s just one at a time.”
Murray made a handful of highlight-reel caliber saves on Saturday night in Columbus, but the Penguins dropped a 4-1 decision. On Sunday, the results and performance matched up.
“I think he should have had one and two on the top 10 on SportsCenter last night,” center Nick Bjugstad said. “Unbelievable to have him on the back end. His focus, he doesn’t get too high on himself when he’s doing well, which is most of the time. I think that’s the main thing I notice. For such a young goaltender, his demeanor is very focused and dialed in.”