PITTSBURGH — Matt Murray helped the Pittsburgh Penguins lift the Stanley Cup in 2016 and again in 2017 as a young goaltender whose stability under pressure belied his age.
The echoes of the victory parades are long gone. Murray moved on. So, the Penguins. For now, only Murray is moving in the right direction while his former team spins its insanely expensive wheels.
Murray turned aside 34 shots, including several key saves to repel a Pittsburgh push and help the Toronto Maple Leafs pull away for a 5-2 win on Tuesday night.
“I feel good, I’m really having fun” Murray said after his first game in Pittsburgh since being traded to Ottawa in October 2020. “We had a great time tonight, a great experience here tonight. I can’t wait.”
John Tavares became the 107th player in NHL history to reach 400 goals with a high first-period shot that beat Casey DeSmith onscreen to give the Maple Leafs an early lead they never have dropped while winning for the fifth time in seven games. .
“(Scoring 400 is) all the more meaningful when you do it on a night when we get two points and the group is playing well, everyone is contributing,” said the 14-year-old veteran.
Michael Bunting had two goals and an assist for Toronto. Mitchell Marner extended his point streak to 10 games with his fourth goal of the season. William Nylander added a goal into an empty net to seal it.
Sidney Crosby and Rickard Rakell scored for the Penguins, but Pittsburgh couldn’t sustain the momentum of a successful three-game trip in which they got five of a possible six points to end an early skid season.
DeSmith stopped 28 shots but had little help in front of him on a night when Toronto had no problem finding open space, sometimes right in front of the Pittsburgh net when the Penguins weren’t paying attention to details on their side – a habit they mostly started on their road swing – back.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan called out defensive lapses “odious.”
“I think there were times in some of those games where for some reason we slip away (defend well) and it seems like in those times (the puck) ends up in the back of our net,” said Sullivan.
Two of Toronto’s goals came from inside the blue paint, including Bunting’s second goal with 50 seconds left in the second period on a play in which he simply camped to the right of DeSmith and was in the position ideal for slamming a rebound with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang trying in vain to cross-check it from the sidelines.
Two of Toronto’s other goals came with the Penguins woefully out of position. Tavares briefly found himself unguarded high in the slot in the first period and Crosby shut down too late. Bunting’s first goal came on a 2-on-1 created by a Pittsburgh turnover that gave Toronto a 3-0 lead.
A deflection from Rakell and a nice backhand from Crosby against his former teammate in a 1:44 span early in the second drew Pittsburgh to 3-2, but Murray – attempting to revive his career after two disappointing seasons with the Senators in rebuilding – held on and the Maple Leafs pulled out.
NOTES: Tavares is the fifth player to reach 400 goals while wearing a Maple Leafs jersey. Hall of Famer Mats Sundin scored 400 goals on October 14, 2002, also against the Penguins. … Pittsburgh C Teddy Blueger skated 12:00 back after missing the first 15 games with an upper-body injury.
Maple Leafs: Start a three-game home game Thursday night against New Jersey.
Penguins: Play Minnesota on Thursday.
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