NHL Analyst: It’s Matt Murray’s Crease

The Pittsburgh Penguins took care of business in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday, winning 3-2 to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

“They were the home team,” NHL Network analyst Steve Mears said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They’ve got so much energy. It’s just been building and brewing through this playoff run, and I think they just picked up right where they left off with the energy from Game 7 (against Tampa Bay) and feeding off the crowd at Consol, which is the best that it’s ever been in that building. I was there in first opened, working for the Penguins. It is night and day. There were times when it was a library and people were wondering, ‘Is this ever going to be a good atmosphere like it used to be at The Igloo?’ I saw that (Monday) night. It was unbelievable. Feeding off that energy of the crowd and just using that speed game – the Sharks were overwhelmed. But to their credit, they were able to find their equilibrium, they had a great second period and made it really interesting.”

The Sharks came back from a 2-0 deficit with goals by Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau but gave up Nick Bonino’s game-winner with less than three minutes to play in the third period.

Both goalies were solid in Game 1, with San Jose’s Martin Jones saving 38 of 41 shots (.927) and Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray saving 24 of 26 shots (.923).

“The goalies have been the story,” Mears said. “Matt Murray is just steady as he goes. He’s getting the job done for the Penguins. It’s unbelievable to see how many good goalies – Lundqvist, Holtby, Quick, Elliott – have been dispatched by these two guys that we never thought would be in a Stanley Cup Finals going head-to-head.”

Murray’s backup, Marc-Andre Fleury, played in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, allowing four goals on 25 shots (.840), including Tyler Johnson’s game-winner less than a minute into overtime.

The Penguins went back to Murray in Game 6 and have allowed just five goals in their previous three games – all victories.

“I really think it’s his crease,” Mears said of Murray. “I really do. Unless he were to suddenly struggle big time or the Penguins fell in a  deep hole in the series and just wanted to change – even if it wasn’t Murray’s fault – just wanted to change things around a little bit, they may go to the experience of Marc-Andre Fleury, who, of course, has played in two Stanley Cup Finals and has won one of them. But if you saw Game 5, he wasn’t quite as sharp. And as Mike Sullivan said, ‘Matt Murray has a calming effect on our team, and it’s so incredibly evident.’ Marc-Andre Fleury, sometimes it’s a little more of an adventure. There’s a bobble here, there’s a questionable goal here, a post here. Matt Murray is just so steady and clam. That’s his demeanor off the ice and that’s the way he plays on the ice, and it really rubs off on the team.”

Game 2 is Wednesday in Pittsburgh at 8 p.m. ET.

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