Crosby, Murray lead Penguins past Blues

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If you consider the final score of 4-1, you’d think the Pittsburgh Penguins pulverized the St. Louis Blues on Sunday afternoon.

Instead, it was a close game, with the Blues forcing Matt Murray to make some spectacular saves and Sidney Crosby (among others) to score some big goals. In the case of Crosby, he collected his 400th career regular-season goal and then added number 401 into an empty net.

Between injuries and inconsistent play, it’s been a bumpy first season for Murray as the Penguins’ unquestioned top goalie. He’s starting to round into form, however, winning five of his last six games.

Murray & Co. got a little luck, too, as the Blues saw a would-be 2-1 goal was disallowed. Instead, the Penguins scored all three goals in the third period.

The Blues generated a 34-23 shots on goal advantage in this game, but only Kyle Brodziak‘s 1-0 tally beat Murray, and that lead lasted a mere 21 seconds.

The Penguins are now 12-4-1 in 2018, and a win like this could really help them cement a playoff spot. With 66 standings points, Pittsburgh is currently ranked second in the competitive Metropolitan Division, but other rivals have games in hand considering that the Pens have now played in 57 contests.

Games in hand have to be a consideration for the Blues, too. While they’re still in third in the impressive Central Division, the Dallas Stars are only one point behind them with two games in hand.

All things considered, it’s not surprising that this was a tight, well-played game that was a lot closer than the final score indicated.

The Penguins are no strangers to such intensity, and much like in previous triumphs, their best players simply came up big. And, hey, a little luck can’t hurt, either.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.