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Penguins Locker Room: On Keeping Up with Jersey, ‘Average’ Murray

Friday’s come-from-behind effort demonstrated the champs could dictate to the Devils.

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By Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0]

PITTSBURGH — The Penguins still haven’t beaten the Devils yet in three chances this season, but Friday’s come-from-behind 4-3 overtime loss at PPG Paints Arena demonstrated the champs could indeed dictate terms to one of the Metropolitan Division’s upstarts.

Just look at the five-on-five shot attempts to see where the game was largely played. Pittsburgh 69, New Jersey 40. After that, we can say the Devils aren’t some kryptonite team.

“We certainly applied more pressure,” Brian Dumoulin said. “Got pucks in deep and saw what we could accomplish if we did that and put them on their heels a little bit. We didn’t do that in the second period and that kinda led to them getting some more chances.”

Ah, the second period, when the Devils looked very much like the Penguins when at their best: Full throttle in all three zones. Not that the visitors didn’t have help from the Penguins in the middle of the game.

“They’re a fast team, they create chances and they defend hard,” Dumoulin told Pittsburgh Hockey Now. “They’re a team that’s really good off the neutral-zone transition and they’re fighting for their lives. We knew we were gonna get a lotta push from them.”

It was a better performance than the previous two games against Jersey, right? Before Friday, the Devils had 58 percent of the shot share and 62 percent of the scoring chances in the season series.

“Ah,” Dumoulin started, breaking into a small smile. “Well, the other games we played weren’t very good, but … we got them one more time and I think we can still show them our best.”

That final matchup will be next Thursday in Newark, by the way.

• Penguins fans have gotten accustomed to strong third periods from their team when trailing, especially at home. It hasn’t gone unnoticed by Derick Brassard, who would still rather have kept the Devils down for the entire evening.

“We expected a push in the second period,” Brassard said. “They were fighting for their lives. I felt we got a little frustrated in the second period. We just regrouped here and … showed some character in the third period.”

Not that the response from the Penguins surprised the newcomer.

“(I) have not been here a long time,” Brassard said. “but we always show up in the third period, as long as I’m here. Guys showed character, stepping up, scoring some big goals. That was a huge point for us in the standings.”

• I issued Matt Murray a solid ‘C’ in my postgame grades, lining up with a performance the goalie pointedly called “average.”

Breaking it down further, I asked Murray about the Will Butcher goal that sailed past him from beyond the left circle, the one that tied the game early in the second and gave the Devils some energy.

“Yeah, I was just late picking it up,” Murray explained. “It was a bit of a moving screen. I’m not sure what happened, but I didn’t pick it up until far too late. I just gotta make a save on it.”

Then there was Hall’s game-winning breakaway, created when Evgeni Malkin got too aggressive with the Penguins battling for a loose puck in the offensive zone.

Murray still drew a bead on Hall’s plan to shoot instead of deke. It didn’t matter, as Hall jammed the forehand through the wickets for his 33rd goal of a breakout campaign.

“You know he’s got a couple different moves, but he kinda slowed up,” Murray said. “You figure he’s gonna shoot, because he’s not carrying speed and probably can’t beat you (with a deke) to the far post. Thought I was all over it and it just kinda squeaked through, so that was a tough one.”

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A lifelong hockey addict, Matt has been fortunate enough to make his career in his sport of choice, working in high school, juniors, college and the pros in various multimedia roles. Previous to joining PHN, Matt was a credentialed Penguins/NHL beat reporter for the past two seasons, including coverage of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. He signed on with PHN in Feb. 2018 as co-owner, contributing commentary and analysis in various forms.

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