Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan would not elaborate much on the decision, but he did confirm that goaltender Matt Murray would start Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final on Friday night at the Canadian Tire Centre.
“That’s a decision we made,” Sullivan said Friday afternoon at the team’s downtown hotel. “We made it for Game 4. We’ll see how it goes.”
Murray’s last start was April 6 before he was sidelined with a lower-body injury through much of the spring. The Penguins needed a win Friday to pull even in the best-of-seven series.
The 22-year-old netminder made his first appearance of the playoffs in Game 3 against Ottawa. He stopped 19 of 20 shots in place of Marc-Andre Fleury, who gave up four goals on nine shots en route to a 5-1 loss.
Murray took over from Fleury late last season and helped deliver the Penguins their fourth Stanley Cup. He performed well as the club’s No. 1 goalie this season — posting a .923 save percentage in 49 games — but could face some rust after a lengthy absence from the crease.
Sullivan hoped his relief appearance would be helpful in that respect.
“Each time I’ve gotten hurt, I’ve come back stronger and that’s all you can do,” Murray said Thursday after practice at the University of Ottawa.
Goaltending hasn’t really been the problem for Pittsburgh of late, Game 3 aside.
Fleury had been excelling as the starter, pitching shutouts in Game 2 against the Senators and Game 7 of a second-round series against Washington. He had a .924 save percentage in 15 playoff starts this spring.
Sullivan said the decision to turn away from the 32-year-old was “very difficult”, adding that Fleury took it like a professional. He wouldn’t share what he relayed to the longtime Pittsburgh netminder.
“We never take these decisions lightly,” Sullivan said. “They’re extremely difficult decisions and this is the choice that we made for Game 4.”
He added: “It’s a good difficult decision to have because we have two guys that are as capable as they are. And both of these guys have helped this team win all year long.”
Fleury said Thursday that he was enjoying another playoff run and hoped it (and his Penguins career perhaps) would not come to an end after Game 3.
“It’s not going to go 16 games in a row perfectly,” said Fleury, a likely candidate to move elsewhere this summer with the expansion draft lying ahead next month.
How Murray handles his first starting assignment in more six weeks will certainly be a focus for Pittsburgh in Game 4, but the club’s offence is also a priority. The highest scoring team during the regular season, the Penguins were held to three goals over three games against the frustrating Senators.
Pittsburgh’s Justin Schultz, Bryan Rust and Patric Hornqvist all remain out with injuries.
The Senators, meanwhile, said Alex Burrows would be a game-time decision for Game 4. The 35-year-old exited Game 3 with an apparent left leg injury.
Defenceman Mark Borowiecki is still not ready to return from a leg injury. He’s hopeful that he can come back later in the series.
“I’ve been working out hard — really really hard. I don’t feel too far off there,” Borowiecki said of his conditioning level. “You’ve just got to get used to that skating motion again and what that does to your legs and your body. Obviously you can’t really replicate it off the ice.”
The 27-year-old hasn’t played since Game 2 of Ottawa’s first-round series against Boston.Report Typo/Error