NASHVILLE — For the first time in his young NHL career, Matt Murray has lost back-to-back games in the playoffs. His Pittsburgh Penguins fell to the Predators, 4-1, Monday at Bridgestone Arena, and now the Stanley Cup Final is tied at two games apiece.
No, Game 4 wasn’t all Murray’s fault, despite what you may have heard from the crowd. The Penguins are suddenly struggling to score, and the goalie can’t do anything about that.
But in only making 12 saves through the first 40 minutes, with three goals allowed, the 23-year-old wasn’t part of the solution. He was outplayed by Pekka Rinne, who’s sure made good on his pledge to “bury” Games 1 and 2.
“I thought I could’ve been a little more aggressive on it,” he said. “That’s probably the difference right there. If I make the save there, then maybe it’s a different game.”
But Murray did feel he was interfered with on the first goal, even though the coach’s challenge was overruled. The second goal, he nearly made a sprawling save, and at first the referee thought he did. But upon review, it turned out that Frederick Gaudreau had scored.
“I never really look at results to determine how things are going, to be honest,” said Murray. “I go by how I feel out there. A lot of times, whether you win or lose is outside your control, so you just worry about stopping the puck and worry about the things you can control. Honestly, I thought for the most part I played pretty well tonight.”
Except for that one breakaway, he added.
Given recent history, Murray was asked if he worried that head coach Mike Sullivan might make a goalie switch to Marc-Andre Fleury.
No, he wasn’t worried about that.
“I have no expectations,” he said. “I say that every single time. It’s not my decision. It’s not my place to worry about it. I just prepare every game as if I was playing.”
Moments later in a different room, Sullivan was asked if Murray would start the next game.
“We just finished a game about a minute-and-a-half ago,” the coach steamed, and that was it for his answer.
Murray has faced adversity before in the playoffs. For Game 5 of last year’s Eastern Conference Final, he was replaced by Fleury. But after Fleury faltered, Murray returned and was solid in Game 6. The rookie played the rest of the way, and the Penguins won the Cup.
Of course, the Penguins were possession monsters a year ago, a juggernaut that rarely got outshot. Suffice to say, things are different in 2017, and the way their series against the Predators has gone through four games, the Penguins may need Murray to be better than solid.
They may, in fact, need him to steal the Cup.
Or, the Penguins could find their offense again. Nobody would be shocked if they did. They actually felt good about their performance in Game 4, other than the lack of finish.
“Throughout every period, there were some chances there we didn’t capitalize on,” said captain Sidney Crosby. “That’s what you expect this time of year. You’ve gotta play your game to give yourselves a chance. Tonight, we had our chances and they didn’t go in.”
Game 5 goes Thursday in Pittsburgh.