Phil Kessel's OT goal bails out Penguins against Kings
While sitting out a month with a lower-body injury, Matt Murray was able to find an important element that might have been missing from his game earlier in the season.
It was fun making 38 saves in his first start since Nov. 17. It was fun making a handful of acrobatic stops in overtime to give his team a chance to win.
Most of all, it was fun to watch Phil Kessel score a power-play goal with 61 seconds left in overtime to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.
“It feels like forever since I played,” Murray said. “It was really exciting. I was having a blast out there, just being back out there. I was very thankful.”
Murray snapped a personal five-game losing streak, securing his first victory since Oct. 25 in Calgary.
Spending a month on the sidelines was intended to let Murray’s body heal, but all involved thought it was also a chance for him to clear his head after a poor start to the season.
Saturday night’s win, especially his performance in overtime, looked like a solid first step on the road back.
“I thought Matt was really good,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “For the first game back after as long as he’s been out, I thought he was really sharp.”
On the first shift of overtime, Murray stopped Tyler Toffoli on a breakaway. He made three other notable stops before Kessel took a deflected Evgeni Malkin pass from the slot at the left post and didn’t miss.
“Especially that overtime, going back and forth like that, it’s pretty nerve racking, but it’s fun at the same time,” Murray said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Overall, the game was hardly picture perfect for the Penguins. They blew a third-period lead at home for the second straight game, giving up an Alex Iafallo power-play goal with less than eight minutes left in regulation.
They failed to put the last-place Kings away after taking a 2-0 lead in the first period, giving up goals to Jake Muzzin and Matt Luff in the second. Malkin, mired in a slump, was a minus-2. Derick Brassard played a team-low 11 minutes, 12 seconds.
Sullivan noticed poor puck management at the end of shifts and in key areas of the ice.
Still, they came away with two points to improve to 8-3-3 in their last 14 games and won their fourth home game in a row.
“Good teams find ways to win when they’re not at their best,” Sullivan said. “I also think we have to be better in order to get consistent results.”
The Penguins got offensive contributions from a number of players.
After not scoring a short-handed goal in the first 30 games of the season, they got one for the second straight night on a strong individual effort from Matt Cullen.
Bryan Rust continued to distance himself from his rough start to the season, converting on a two-on-one with Sidney Crosby.
Tanner Pearson was the biggest standout playing his first game against his old team after a November trade to the Penguins. He stripped a puck from All-Star Drew Doughty and patiently lifted a shot over fallen goalie Jonathan Quick for a second-period goal.
“With as much skill as (Doughty) has, you want to put as much pressure as quickly as possible on him and make him move the puck faster,” Pearson said. “Quickie went for the poke-check. He does that weird thing with his back leg. I either had to get it up or put it along the ice. I elected to put it up.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at email@example.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.