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Penguins’ reunion with Matt Murray spoiled by COVID-19

Murray was added to the Senators’ crowded COVID-19 protocol list on Friday.

NHL: New York Rangers at Ottawa Senators
Matt Murray makes a save for the Ottawa Senators against the New York Rangers on Oct. 23.
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Patric Hornqvist thanked the Penguins for their stick-tapping tribute during his return to Pittsburgh in a way the winger probably didn’t intend: his miss on the shootout allowed Bryan Rust and Jeff Carter’s goals to carry the Penguins to 3-2 extra-time victory over the visiting Panthers on Nov. 12, 2021.

NHL: NOV 11 Panthers at Penguins
Tristan Jarry makes a save on Florida’s Patric Hornqvist during the shootout on Nov. 11, 2021.
Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Because of the division-separated 2020-21 NHL bubble, the Penguins only faced opponents within the East Division last season. That reunited them with former teammates like Conor Sheary and Justin Schultz in Washington and Jack Johnson with the Rangers, but kept them from seeing Hornqvist until now.

Their next major reunion— the first time the team was slated to face former starting netminder Matt Murray— was scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 13. Murray might have been able to exact revenge for the Penguins dealing him for a second-round pick in October 2020 (and also fight for his first victory of the season) when Pittsburgh visited Ottawa this Saturday.

That is, if he hadn’t been added to the Senators’ packed COVID-19 protocol list on Thursday.

This last-minute change may be a disappointment for the Penguins, as before he was removed from the lineup Murray was suffering through one of the coldest goaltending streaks he’s ever recorded.

After capping a Pittsburgh tenure that spanned five seasons and two championships by posting a .899 save percentage in his final 2019-20 campaign with the Penguins, Murray spent 2020-21 with the Ottawa Senators. There, he marked the lowest numbers of his NHL career.

True, the Senators defense wasn’t doing him many favors, but Natural Stat Trick reports that Murray faced an average of 7.78 high-danger shots against per game in 2020-21, which isn’t exactly the toughest competition one could face in the NHL— in fact, it ranked as only 49th-most high-danger chances against per game.

Despite that fact, Murray marked a 10-13-1 record, a career-low .893 save percentage and a 3.38 goals-against average.

Murray has yet to post a win in the five contests he has appeared in during the 2021-22 campaign. One of his roughest games of the season so far came on Nov. 1, when the Blackhawks earned their first win of the season (in their tenth outing) by posting five goals against Murray and the visiting Senators.

Murray’s next chance to face the Penguins will come when they return to Ottawa once again on Dec. 31. Will the two-time Stanley Cup champion celebrate New Year’s Eve by finding his way back into the win column?