He’s back. Matt Murray in his return to the ice, robbed the San Jose Sharks, 5 – 2, lifting the Pittsburgh Penguins into sole possession of 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division; at least temporarily.
It is hard to imagine a goalie stealing a game in a 5 – 2 win but that is exactly what happened last night. Even though Bryan Rust opened up the scoring. The Sharks outshot the Penguins 36 – 21 in the first 2 periods, staking themselves to a 2 – 1 lead, courtesy of 2 power play goals. It could have been far worse. Despite some people rapping Murray’s glove hand that glove hand lashed out, lightning quick and robbed Brenden Dillon on a screen shot from the point in the first period. It was hard to imagine how Murray saw the shot through that screen. That shot was taken less than 2 minutes into the game.
Murray’s glove also robbed Joakim Ryan from a center point shot, a little later in the first period. Murray flashed the leather at least one more time while the game was still in doubt and the score tied 2 – 2, about 5 minutes into the 3rd period, stoning Kevin Leblanc on a 3 on 2 break.
Not only did Murray’s glove hand save the day, but also his reactions and leg pads came up big a multitude of deflected shots. Shark forwards were constantly in front of Murray, often alone, behind the Penguins’ defense. Murray stood tall for 2 periods, until Penguin shooters got themselves rolling.
The Penguins did open up the scoring for the evening before taking several penalties that gave San Jose the initiative and a land slide of shots. The first goal came during 4 on 4 play with Sidney Crosby and Melker Karlsson in the penalty box with coincidental minors. San Jose tried to break out of their own zone, but Ian Cole stood Chris Tierney up at the left point, stripping him of the puck and keeping the play on side. Bryan Rust collected the puck just inside the blue line but circled it out. Skating to the right he passed back across himself to the left and Riley Sheahan. Sheahan brought the puck back into the zone and down the left wing before slipping it back to Rust who was now breaking down the right wing. With his speed, Rust beat the Sharks “D” to cut across the front of the crease. As soon as Martin Jones opened up to follow Rust across the crease, Rust slipped a backhand shot through the now open 5-hole.
Unfortunately, the lead was short live and the Penguins found themselves, thanks to penalties to Justin Schultz and Kris Letang. If it hadn’t been for a rare gift from Brent Jones, our locals would have gone into the locker room down 2 – 1 going into the 3rd period. Fortunately for our flightless fowl, Burns didn’t skate the last couple seconds of the 2nd period off of the clock. Instead after picking up the puck in the corner to the right of his goalie he skated the puck toward the back of the net but tried to reverse the puck right to where Phil Kessel could pounce on it. Kessel wasted little time finding Evgeni Malkin cutting down the slot. Malkin ripped a one-time shot passed Jones and the Penguins evened the game up, despite being out played for most of the game.
San Jose continued their self-destructive ways in the third period. Jones became his own worst enemy going behind his net to play the puck, only to cough it up to Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist slid the puck cross crease to Malkin, who deposited it into an empty net, getting the game winner and his second goal of the night.
The Penguins then extended their lead near the 14 minute mark when Letang flagged down a clearing attempt with his hand. He knocked the puck to his stick and then shot the puck on net. The rebound trickled to his left, where Tom Kuhnhackl pounced on it. Kuhnhackl slipped the puck back in front of the net with a backhand pass between his legs to Bryan Rust who lifted a backhand over Jones’ pads for his 2nd goal of the game to keep pace with Malkin.
Trying to get back into the game, San Jose pulled their goalie early, with over 2 minutes to play. Crosby tried sealing the game with a near 200 foot goal that missed the net and ended in an icing. Later Crosby had a second opportunity to ice the game and net his 400th goal but in traditional team first mentality he differed and pass the puck to Rust so that Rust could complete his hat trick. Rust quickly whipped a wrist shot on goal but the shot hit the crossbar, giving San Jose a little more life.
Malkin finally put the nail into the Sharks’ coffin at 18:47, completing his own hat trick, With the Sharks trying to break out of their own zone, Crosby got the loose puck just outside the blue line. He slipped the puck to Malkin. Malkin, in turn found Rust. Rust took a couple of steps down the left wing before returning the puck to Malkin, in the slot, who finally ended the scoring.
With Columbus losing in a shootout, the Penguins moved 1 point ahead of them. The Penguins are not out of the woods yet, but the future is looking brighter despite the ugly win, thanks to stellar goaltending.