Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray hasn’t exactly been quiet and reserved about the amount of contact he’s been receiving in his crease lately.
One of the most recent examples dates back to the game in Arizona during the Penguins’ western road trip a couple weeks ago where he had to bark at the referee for not calling what he felt was blatant infraction by a Coyote skater. He ended up getting penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after the sequence for what he said.
Wednesday night’s chippy game vs. the NHL-best Lightning seemed to drive him over the edge.
Tampa Bay aggressively raced out of the gates and swarmed the Penguins in the beginning of the tilt, and a few scrums took place inside the blue paint of Murray’s goal crease as the game went on. In the second period, tensions rose even higher, as Alex Killorn slid down the slot and seemingly gave Murray a bit of a shove for good measure.
A few minutes later, Lightning right-winger Mathieu Joseph got in close in with a good bit of momentum, and the 6-foot-4 Murray absolutely demolished him while sliding over to protect his right goal post.
Murray isn’t exactly the most physical guy on the ice, especially being that he’s a goaltender, but that isn’t to say he won’t stand his ground. It was clear to him that a frustrated Lightning club down four goals was going to continue causing chaos around him, so he took matters into his own hands.
“My priority is to stop the puck, so I have to focus on that first,” Murray said after the game. “If I’m able to recognize that a guy’s going to hit me, if I can brace myself, that’s what I have to do. They’re obviously not calling anything. If I have to, I guess that’s what I have to do.”
Murray made 33 saves on 35 shots for a sparkling .943 save percentage on the win and almost pitched a shutout against the most dangerous team in the league, but it was spoiled by J.T. Miller off a quick one-timer late in the contest.
Tampa Bay managed to land 59 hits (44 before the beginning of the third period), but Murray landed the most impressive hit of the evening. This would be a hell of a playoff series.