Penguins goaltender Matt Murray makes a save in the second period on the Lightning's Jonathan Marchessault during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday, May 16, 2016, at Consol Energy Center.
The fun times of the first few weeks of the playoffs are gone for Penguins goalie Matt Murray.
The call-your-dad moments of his first playoff start and his first playoff win are dusty memories.
He's no longer even the shiny, new goalie on the national hockey stage. That honor is reserved for Tampa Bay's 21-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has performed admirably in relief of injured Ben Bishop in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals.
What's left is work.
The work of the every-other-day grind of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
And Monday night, Murray gutted out a workmanlike victory, making 19 saves to backstop the Penguins to a 3-2 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning to even the series 1-1.
“You've got to embrace the grind and you've got to love the grind, I guess,” Murray said.
After the Penguins jumped to a 2-0 lead with a sizzling start to the game, the Lightning flipped momentum dramatically with two goals in the final four minutes of the first period.
The second of the two was a hockey Rorschach test of sorts. With less than a minute left in the period, Jonathan Drouin skated up the right wing two-on-one and fired an unscreened wrister from the faceoff circle that beat Murray cleanly.
A remarkable shot by a 21-year-old talent who is about to break out as one of the most gifted young players in the game? Or a sign that the bloom is off the 21-year-old Murray's rose?
It's all a matter of perspective.
From Murray's perspective, it was a bad goal.
“I just overplayed it,” Murray said. “It went in between my body and my arm. You never want to get beat through you. Just the timing of it. We got off to a quick lead, but we weren't able to hold it.”
In the second period, Murray stopped all seven shots he faced, but there were some shaky moments.
The shots to his glove side that he would normally pocket ended up bouncing out in front of his crease. On one such occasion in the second period, Murray had to trip Ondrej Palat to stop him from scoring on a rebound.
“That's the best penalty I'll take in my life,” Murray said. “He's got a wide-open net, and we were able to kill it. I'll take that penalty 10 times out of 10.”
Coach Mike Sullivan didn't deny the suggestion that he thought about going to veteran Marc-Andre Fleury, perhaps to start the second period.
His decision to stick with Murray, though, was rewarded.
“What we've always liked about Matt is his ability to respond when things don't go the way he would like they to go or he expects them to go,” Sullivan said. “He's always responded in such a positive way.”
The most positive response Murray made to his struggles came on the last shift of the second period when Palat got behind the Penguins defense up the right wing, made a hard cut to the net and shot. Murray turned it away.
“I kind of battled through it mentally and I thought I made a couple big saves in the third when I needed to,” Murray said.
The heady days of the first few weeks of the playoffs are gone for Murray.
He's 2-2 with a 2.74 goals-against average and .889 save percentage in his last four starts after going 7-1 with a 1.81 GAA and .944 save percentage in his first eight.
His postseason run still might end before he wants it to.
But if it does, it won't be because he didn't embrace the grind.
“Matt is a mental rock back there,” defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. “He's able to put goals behind him. He does an amazing job of just stopping the next puck.”