Photo: Gene J. Puskar (AP)

Matt Murray was fed up. The Lightning had come out aggressive and had been buzzing him, and his crease had already been the site for a couple of scrums. So, early in the second, when Mathieu Joseph darted in with a head of steam, Murray got proactive.

“My priority is to stop the puck, so I have to focus on that first,” Murray said. “If I’m able to recognize that a guy’s going to hit me, if I can brace myself, that’s what I have to do.

“They’re obviously not calling anything. If I have to, I guess that’s what I have to do.”

“That” was springing out of his stance and leveling Joseph:

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Murray made 33 saves in the Penguins’ chippy 4-2 home win over the leaue-leading Lightning, and while you don’t often see a goaltender initiating a hit like that, you also don’t often see a goaltender this hot.

Murray is 11-2-0 and allowing 2.15 goals against since returning from a month out with a lower-body injury, and maybe it’s not even as accurate to call him “hot” as is to note he’s having a hell of a season that just happened to get thrown off for a bit by that injury. When the Penguins shut him down, Murray had been on a woeful 0-4-1 streak, and they noted he had been dealing with the issue for “a couple of weeks.” Prior to that, he had opened the season 4-1-0. Take out that bad, handicapped stretch and he’d be up with the NHL’s leaders.

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It’s been kind of an uneven season for Pittsburgh, but they’re still tied for second in the Metro. The playoff picture is a real mess, and whichever teams’ goaltenders can steal a couple of wins now will be thankful for it down the home stretch. So while Murray’s season stats might not quite reflect it yet, he’s as capable of carrying his team as anyone.