Matt Murray’s timely save lifts the Penguins past the Stars
Mike Sullivan has plenty of phrases or idioms he leans on.
Being “conscientious” on defense is one of them.
The “200-foot” game is a classic.
And don’t forget “drill down” when the Penguins’ coach explains how he evaluates many things.
His greatest hit might just be the “timely save.”
Matt Murray provided two vital stops on the same sequence in the middle stages of the Penguins’ 4-2 win against the Dallas Stars, their fifth in a row, on Friday at PPG Paints Arena.
On paper, a single save (or two) might not seem significant in a six-goal game. To the Penguins, it dictated the route this contest took.
“Huge,” said forward Patric Hornqvist. “It’s a 2-0 game there and we’re probably not standing here laughing right now.
“That’s why he gets paid the big bucks.”
Murray’s status as a pending restricted free agent after this season notwithstanding, he did quite a bit to allow his team to earn a victory.
Already up, 1-0, thanks to a breakaway goal by forward Roope Hintz at 5:10 of the second period, the Stars were still on the attack just over 10 minutes later when forward Denis Gurianov lifted a wrister from the left wing. Murray got a piece of it with his right arm but the puck struck the near post and deflected between Murray’s back and the net then bounced toward the right circle.
Stars All-Star forward Tyler Seguin was ready to pounce on the puck and a seemingly wide open net but shot it low into Murray’s left leg. Following up on another rebound, Seguin lifted a wrister but the inside of Murray’s left elbow fended off that shot, then smothered the puck to keep the deficit at 1-0 at the 15:27 mark.
“It was like a low two-on-one,” Murray said. “The guy shot it. I got a piece of the post and in behind me. I just tried to get something over there.
“That’s all I try to do is just make every save that I can no matter what time in the game. I feel like that’s my job is to help my team and make those saves.”
“It was kind of a fluky play,” defenseman Marcus Pettersson said. “Me and (defenseman Justin Schultz) were kind of late to the puck. It ended up bouncing to Seguin. That was two big stops.
“He saved the rebound too and gave us a chance to score on the other end.”
Just over two minutes later at the opposite portion of the rink, the Penguins tied the game thanks to a deflection goal by forward Jared McCann, back in the lineup after a one-game absence due to an undisclosed ailment, at the 17:36 mark.
A dazzling individual goal by defenseman Kris Letang at 6:34 of the third put the Penguins up 2-1. Then at 10:20 of the third, another deflection goal by Hornqvist put the Penguins up by two scores.
Dallas made it a one-goal contest at 12:01 of the third when defenseman John Klingberg whistled a wrister from the left point through a forest of bodies and past Murray’s right shoulder on the near side.
The victory and the Penguins’ winning streak was secured with 22 seconds remaining in regulation thanks to an empty-net goal by Letang, his fourth of the season.
The opportunity to stage a comeback was ensured by Murray with his stops on Seguin, two of 22 he made during the game.
“Matt came up big for us,” Sullivan said. “That’s what he does. He makes key saves at key times during games that help us win or give us a chance to win. He did it again for us tonight.”
“You kind of grow as a team when you see those saves and kind of catch momentum,” Petterson said. “It gave us a chance.”
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .