Matt Murray may be a 21-year-old rookie, but he’s playing like a 12-year vet. Indeed, the Pittsburgh goalie stopped a whopping 47 shots on Monday, leading the Penguins to a 3-2 win and a 2-1 series lead over the Washington Capitals.
The Penguins led 3-0 entering the third period, but the Capitals threw everything they had at Murray, pulling within one goal with less than a minute to go. Murray, however, made several key stops in the final seconds, all with traffic and limbs obscuring his vision.
Murray, who was called upon to replace Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion), has allowed just three goals in the last six periods. He has been quite the story in this series.
“He sure has,” former Calgary Flames general manager and current NHL Network analyst Craig Button said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “If you’re the Washington Capitals and you throw 49 shots up at him and you have grade-A scoring chances like they had – other than getting the puck behind him, they did everything right up until that point. But at times, you come up against a goaltender that is so good and so dialed in to what is unfolding around him. I think that’s what you’re seeing with Matt Murray. You’re seeing a goaltender that is not only stopping the puck, but seems to be making it look rather effortless. I would never say ‘easy’ because that’s never the case, but he’s got a demeanor that’s calm, that’s steady, that’s consistent. When you’re trying to look for a flaw and an area where you can break down a goaltender, I think that’s the big part now for the Washington Capitals.”
Alex Ovechkin and Justin Williams cracked the Murray code in the third period, but it wasn’t enough. The Caps scored four goals in Game 1 but have combined for just three goals in Games 2 and 3. Washington, the NHL’s best team in the regular season, must win Game 4 to avoid falling behind 3-1 in the series.
“You’ve got to keep your team’s enthusiasm and attitude high and at the same time give them a little bit more of a plan,” Button said. “Going back in and just saying, ‘Just keep doing the same thing you did,’ I don’t think is a good answer. I think you got to give them a little bit more about, ‘If we just do this, let’s try and see if we can bust them.”
Still, Button, who has watched Murray for years, has been highly impressed with the Thunder Bay, Ontario, native.
“Matt has always had a real calm and poise about him,” Button said. “I think the biggest thing with Matt was he’s big. He’s 6-4 and I think the physical maturity all had to come together, his stamina with the physical maturity. You’re getting worked in a game, and sometimes a goaltender – if you don’t have the physical strength – you’re going to wear down and you might not be as quick to get to a spot. But I think as the whole physical maturity has come together for him, you’ve seen his entire game just come into more of a better form – and that form is pretty impressive.”
Game 4 is Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.