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Penguins/Senators Recap: Pens have a successful reunion win over Matt Murray, 2-0

Casey DeSmith pitches a shutout and out-shines his former teammate Matt Murray, as the Pens take a 2-0 win over Ottawa

Pittsburgh Penguins v Ottawa Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

Matt Murray and Casey DeSmith had been fellow goalies in the Penguin organization from 2015-20, as partners in training camps, Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh over the years. In Murray’s first career game against the Pens, it was only fitting the two goalies would be the story of the game.

But it wouldn’t be the former starter, the goalie who got drafted and won 50 NHL playoff games in Pittsburgh coming out on top in this game, it would be the unassuming and undrafted goalie that was typically always cast as the backup that earned the shutout and the win.

However, both goalies performed exceedingly well. Murray and DeSmith would combined to stop 68 of 69 shots that the goalies faced on the night, with the final 2-0 margin of victory coming with a late Bryan Rust empty net goal against an unguarded cage.

The only goal against a goalie and Murray’s lone time being beaten came in the second period when Jeff Carter put the Penguins on the board. After he and Kasperi Kapanen got in on the forecheck, Kris Letang did well to step up and hold the puck in the zone. Letang stepped up in the play and laid a pass over for Carter, who shot back across Matt Murray and scored.

Other than that, the goalies took it from there. Murray was the busier of the two, stopping 42 of 43 Pittsburgh shots thrown his way. A small point of pride, or at least relief for Murray exiting the game was not allowing his old friend Sidney Crosby to record his 500th career goal on this night. It wasn’t for a lack of trying though, Crosby’s six shots on goal in the game tied a season-high.

DeSmith wasn’t tested as much, but was flawless in his second shutout of the season. His best stop of the night was probably also in the second period, denying a clean breakaway with a great save. That was one of all 26 pucks that DeSmith was able to turn away from the net that Ottawa could throw on him.

In the end, the energy of the game seemed to match the depleted COVID-restricted crowd. In all situations, per Natural Stat Trick, high-danger chances were just 10-8 in favor of the Senators.

A win is a win, and a road win at that. Pittsburgh breaks Ottawa’s two-game winning streak and finds themselves with now a modest two-game winning streak of their own coming out of the break.

Some thoughts

  • It was kind of fitting, in a way, that the only goal Murray surrendered on the night ended up being to a Penguin player he never played with in Carter. For all the players still around that Murray achieved such success in 2016 and 2017, he was dialed in and able to keep them all off the board. Getting no goal support meant he was never going to win this game as it went on, but Murray was sharp and has re-found his form, which is nice to see.
  • And the Pens definitely did get better as the game went on. Here’s the xGF% by period: 40.0%, 72.3%, 70.5%. With Ottawa playing their third game in four days, they did seem to fade away as the game went on. The Penguins couldn’t crack Murray but once, however they could (and maybe should) have gotten a few more red lights out of the night.
  • First Pens/Sens game of the season, back in November: 6-3 OTT win. Second Pens/Sens game, just three weeks ago: 6-4 Pens win. Tonight? Well throw that all out the window, 1-0 game until an ENG, pretty much the exact opposite of what one probably would have expected entering this contest. Hockey’s a funny sport like that.
  • A second really good performance in a row has to ease the tensions and fears about DeSmith a little for the Pens coaches and brass. A backup goalie can rise and fall quickly, and it wasn’t too long ago that Mike Sullivan clearly had no faith in DeSmith when he twice replaced him after 20 minutes. It will be interesting to see if Sullivan gives DeSmith more opportunities, and coming off a shutout, there’s good reason to believe that the team will feel better about giving Tristan Jarry another night off again in the coming games.
  • Nice to see Carter find the back of the net, he’s been shooting the puck a ton lately but he had not scored since January 23rd and had only recorded one goal and one assist in his last 12 games, dating back to January 20th. Pittsburgh will need more production than that, especially with no Evgeni Malkin in this game.
  • But Malkin should be back for next game, and right in time. The Pens piled up a lot of shots, but only generated a total of 2.4 xGF with them. The power play went 0-for-2 and didn’t look especially sharp or dangerous. They could use the infusion of skill and Malkin’s shot back.
  • Wow, turns out neither Brady Tkachuk nor anyone else on the Sens ended up using their stick like a prison shank and attacked the Penguin goalie and just played a normal hockey game. Who woulda guessed?

Pens are back at it in the biggest sporting event on Sunday at 12:30. That’s what I’m being told, anyways.