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Penguins

Penguins' Matt Murray battles his way to second straight win

Jonathan Bombulie
| Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, 5:33 a.m.
Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19), from Sweden, goes for the puck as Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (30) defends in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, in Washington.
Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19), from Sweden, goes for the puck as Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (30) defends in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, in Washington.

WASHINGTON – Two games into his return from a lower-body injury that sidelined him for almost a month, the rebuilding of goaltender Matt Murray’s game is going about as well as the Pittsburgh Penguins could hope.

Murray made 31 saves to help the Penguins to a tight, 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night.

It was a significant step up in competition for Murray, whose made 38 saves in a 4-3 overtime victory over last-place Los Angeles on Saturday night.

“I think every game’s important, especially now coming back off injury,” Murray said. “I just want to kind of get the feel again. These guys are always a really tough test. It was a good test for me coming back.”

Murray stopped a six-game goal-scoring streak for Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who attempted an eye-popping 14 shots in the game. Eight missed the net, one was blocked and five others were turned aside by Murray.

“It was an exciting game,” Murray said. “It felt like every shot was a chance. Not many feelers. That seems to be the type of game we have against these guys. They’re a heck of a team. They won last year for a reason. They gave us all we could handle.”

Compounding matters for Murray, the Capitals went on the power play five times. He stopped all six shots he faced during nine minutes of advantage time.

“He really battled,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He made some timely saves for us at key times of the game. He gave us a chance to win. I thought he really competed hard.”

Murray scored higher in execution than he did in artistic merit. He was more competitive than he was graceful.

For example, two Capitals shots from the right wing trickled through him toward the goal line in the third period.

The first, by Evgeny Kuznetsov on a power play, hit the post. The second, by Lars Eller with about six minutes left, was cleared off the goal line by diving defenseman Marcus Pettersson.

“I thought tonight was just a battle,” Murray said. “It wasn’t a pretty game by any means, but you’re going to have those games throughout the season. As a team, we battled.”

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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