Murray makes his mark as Pens beat Caps

Reuters News
|
Posted: May 02, 2016 11:44 PM

(The Sports Xchange) - Rookie goalie Matt Murray made 47 saves while standing up to Washington Capitals' avalanche of shots, and the Pittsburgh Penguins turned two goals a minute apart into a 3-2 victory on Monday in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

The Penguins grabbed a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 will be on Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

Patric Hornqvist and Tom Kuhnhackl scored before the midpoint of the first period, and Carl Hagelin added a goal in the second to make it 3-0 and the Penguins, the NHL's best team over the last two months, held on to top the Capitals, easily the league's best team all season.

Alex Ovechkin scored his first goal of the season against the Penguins in the third period, and linemate Justin Williams scored in the final minute as they tried frantically to rally.

However, it was not enough as the 21-year-old Murray, the youngest Pittsburgh goaltender to ever win in the postseason, improved to 5-1 in the playoffs.

Murray's saves were the most by a Pittsburgh goaltender in a regulation-length playoff game.

Murray, who began the season in the minors and played only four NHL games until March, made the difference as the Penguins were outshot 49-23 yet still controlled the scoreboard even as the Capitals controlled the stats sheet.

The Penguins, on the fringe of the playoff race much of the season, have won 20 of 24 games since March 8 -- with Murray in net for 11 of the wins -- and are 6-2 in the postseason.

Capitals goalie Braden Holtby made 20 saves.

At least statistically, the Capitals were dominant from the start except in the number most important: goals.

They doubled up the Penguins in shots for most of the first two periods -- it was 28-14 after two -- yet Murray turned away scoring chance after scoring chance as Pittsburgh opened up a 3-0 lead.

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang appeared to be in the center of everything, and a pair of stretch passes by him led to two goals in exactly a minute.

Letang, who played a remarkable 35:22 in Pittsburgh's 2-1 win in Game 2 Saturday, threw the puck up ice to rookie Conor Sheary to start a 3-on-2 break.

Defenseman Trevor Daley's slap shot from the high slot deflected off Hornqvist's stick and into the net at 6:37 -- Hornqvist's fourth goal in eight games.

The Penguins kept the pressure on, and this time a Letang pass from deep in his zone began a 2-on-1 break, with 39-year-old center Matt Cullen's pass from the left circle deflecting off rookie Kuhnhackl and past Holtby.

Later in the period, Letang leveled Capitals left winger Marcus Johansson with an apparent shoulder hit to the head, putting Johansson out of the game briefly.

The hit angered the Capitals, who are without suspended defenseman Brooks Orpik through Game 5 for his Game 2 hit to the head of Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta, who sat out Monday.

Several Capitals players later went out of their way to hit Letang, who was upset himself after Nicklas Backstrom clipped him with a knee to the head following Letang's hit on Ovechkin late in the second.

However, while the Capitals were getting their shots, it was Pittsburgh that took advantage of its best scoring chances. Hagelin made it 3-0 at 15:03 of the second, knocking Nick Bonino's backhand pass to the crease across the goal line.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)