Murray sharp in his net return


Malkin scores 3 for Penguins

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH

Matt Murray wanted to feel a sense of normalcy, so the Pittsburgh Penguins goalie went back to work Tuesday night for the first time since his father, James, died this month.

“I just tried to come in and forget about the fact I hadn’t played in a while and try to get lost in the game,” Murray said.

There were no outward signs of emotion. No tears. That’s simply not the understated Murray’s way. Looking as sharp as he has all season, the 23-year-old Murray stopped 40 shots in a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks, including a handful of spectacular stops early that kept the Penguins in it long enough to rally for their eighth win in 10 games.

“Matt’s a mature kid,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “He’s grounded. I think he has good perspective on where he’s at and the opportunity in front of him.”

Murray took a leave of absence following his father’s death on Jan. 16. He returned last week but stayed out of the lineup while rookie Casey DeSmith filled in capably as the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions have slowly pulled themselves out of an early-season funk.

By Tuesday morning, Murray was ready to go and he responded by looking very much like the player who backstopped the Penguins to consecutive championships, including a six-game triumph over San Jose in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

“We try to support him and know it’s huge game for him and hope it gives him a little like push, little bit of confidence,” center Evgeni Malkin said.

Malkin did his part, picking up his 12th career hat trick over the final 20:04. The Russian star’s 24th goal of the season late in the second period tied it. His 25th early in the third gave Pittsburgh the lead for good and his 26th rolled into an empty net with just more than a minute remaining.

“Like last couple weeks, I feel like I’m so lucky, but it’s fine,” Malkin said. “It helps the team to win. I feel like my shots, it’s coming.”

Brent Burns and Logan Couture scored power-play goals for the Sharks but San Jose dropped its second straight game without Joe Thornton, who is out indefinitely with a right leg injury.

Martin Jones finished with 26 saves.

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