It is supremely fitting on the release date of the new Star Wars film that tonight’s tilt vs. Vegas Golden Knights is the first encounter between apprentice Matt Murray and master Marc-Andre Fleury. It doesn’t matter where your allegiance lay in the polarizing argument of which goalie the Penguins should have kept. All that matters is we are set to experience a very special contest.
Murray’s First Shutout
Between Dec. 19, 2015, and Mar. 29, 2016. Murray stacked a solid 5-2-1 record. You could feel something special was beginning to percolate with the Thunder Bay, Ontario Native, which would begin to spell the end of Fleury’s reign.
On Apr. 2, 2016. Vs. New York Islanders, in his ninth game, Murray put together one of the finest performances of his career, to that point. Murray turned away 24 Islanders shots and had plenty of help on the scoreboard. The Penguins beat Islanders goalie Jean-Francois Berube early and often. Pittsburgh took the game 5-0, and Murray began his ascent to the top of the Penguins goaltending throne.
Fleury handled the transition with as much grace and humility as one would expect from one of Pittsburgh’s favourite sons, but when it comes to puck drop on Thursday evening, we can anticipate that beneath the patented Fleury grin, lays the face of a competitor looking to steal two points from the glove of his successor.
When Tristan Jarry backstopped the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 34 save, 4-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Dec 17, 2017. He became just the sixth Penguins goaltender since 1987 to register a shutout in their first six games played.
While the game may hold significance as the impetus to a turn around in the Penguins fortunes, here is a look back at the other goaltenders that achieved the same feat.
When Fleury skated onto the ice Oct 30, 2003, for a matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center, chances are securing his first career shutout was one of the last things on his mind. The 1-2-2 goaltender was beginning to show glimpses of stardom but the deficiencies in the Penguins roster, coupled with the young spirit of the future three-time Stanley Cup winner, limited Fleury to just 20 games in his inaugural campaign.
The Penguins defense core limited Chicago to just 20 shots, including five from Hawks centre Brett McLean. This would stand as the lowest shot count Fleury would face that season. Konstantin Koltsov provided the goal support, as Fleury and the Pens squeaked out a narrow 1-0 victory.
Jean Sebastien Aubin
Aubin was the Penguins third-round pick in the 1995 entry draft and found himself in the conversation to be the goaltender of the future. Some untimely injuries and the arrival of Marc-Andre Fleury, Johan Hedberg, and Sebastien Caron, made for a crowded crease and would eventually lead to the departure of Aubin, who landed in Toronto, for a stint with the Maple Leafs.
Aubin’s first shutout with Pittsburgh occurred in his fifth game with the big club, on Nov 7, 1998. The 5-3-4 Penguins battled the 5-6-3 Boston Bruins at the Civic Arena. Aubin and Bruins goaltender Byron Dafoe put on a goaltending clinic, leading their respective clubs to a scoreless draw following regulation time and through an overtime period. Aubin made 18 stops, including five saves on Bruins forward Steven Heinze and four on defenseman Ray Bourque to secure the shutout.
Patrick Charbonneau, Joel Gagnon, Chad Lang and Dieter Kochan, are a few of the goaltenders selected before the Penguins chose Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL) alumnus Patrick Lalime with the 156th pick in the 1993 entry draft.
Long before Matt Murray put fresh ink on some antiquated records, Patrick Lalime rewrote a few pages of history. Most notably, Lalime amassed a 14-0-2 record in his first 16 contests.
His first shutout came just five games into his career on Dec. 13, 1996. Vs. San Jose Sharks. Lalime faced 20 shots, including four from Bernie Nicholls, and multiple shots from four others. The Penguins managed to put four goals, including two from Tomas Sandstrom past Sharks netminder Chris Terreri, en route to a 4-0 victory. Lalime collected two more shutouts during his historic first season and finished with a 21-12-2 record.
The jubilation in Pittsburgh was short-lived. The 1996-97 season was Lalime’s only season with the Penguins. He was traded to Anaheim in 1998 for Sean Pronger.
When the 0-2 Zatkoff laced up for the third game of his career on Nov. 2, 2013. vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, silencing the cannon at Columbus Nationwide Arena was high on the list of his objectives. The 11-3-0 Penguins led a consistent charge through the regular season, but two of the Pens three losses were charged to Zatkoff.
The rookie focused on redeeming himself and solidifying his slot as the unrivaled Penguins backup.
Zatkoff made 19 saves, faced multiple shots from five Blue Jackets skaters, while Deryk Engelland, Chris Kuntiz and Jussi Jokinen scored for the Penguins.
With his first career shutout under his belt, Zatkoff rattled off seven straight wins and earned victories in 10 of his next 12 starts, which made him a mainstay in the Penguins net for the next few seasons. It also set the stage for his heroics in Game One of the 2015-16 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Mr. Game 1!
Arnqui, Quebec Native Sebastien Caron captured two shutouts in his first six games with the Penguins. The first occurred in his third game on Jan. 15, 2003 vs. Carolina Hurricanes. Caron turned away 26 Hurricanes shots, including five from defenceman Niclas Wallin. Caron’s strong play and goals from Martin Straka and Kent Manderville gave the Penguins a 2-0 victory.
Caron did not have to wait long to replicate his solid performance.
His next shutout occurred almost a week later on Jan. 21, 2003 vs. the Buffalo Sabres. While the game could be considered a rather boring affair. Fans of defensive, technical hockey, got their money’s worth, as the Pens and Sabres battled to a scoreless draw through 65 minutes.
Caron was the busier of the two goalies. He faced 34 shots, including four each from Chris Gratton and Denis Hamel. Sabres goalie Martin Biron turned in a solid performance as well. Biron turned away 23 Penguins shots, for his third shutout of the season. The game would also stand as the final time the Penguins would end a contest with a 0-0 score.