OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) – The Pittsburgh Penguins will give Matt Murray his first start of the playoffs in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final Friday night in Ottawa.
Coach Mike Sullivan announced the decision a few hours before the game.
Murray replaced Marc-Andre Fleury in the first period of a one-sided Game 3 loss on Wednesday after the 32-year-old Fleury allowed four goals on nine shots. It was Murray’s first game since April 6, which was also his last start prior to suffering a lower-body injury that kept him out until his recent return as Fleury’s backup. He stopped 19 of 20 shots in 47 minutes.
“I thought he was really solid in there,” Sullivan said. “He’s had a lot of practice time in the last couple of weeks.”
The 22-year-old Murray took over from Fleury during the Penguins’ postseason drive last spring, ultimately winning the Stanley Cup as the team’s No. 1 despite having never played a full NHL season. He posted a .923 save percentage this season while starting 47 games.
Fleury has been mostly sensational throughout the playoffs, including a shutout of Ottawa in Game 2. Fleury has a .924 save percentage in 15 starts this postseason.
Sullivan said he explained his decision to Fleury, but would not share details with reporters.
“Marc was a professional like he always is,” Sullivan said. “Both of these guys handle the decisions that we make extremely professionally. These guys are both competitors. They both want to be in the net. We don’t always expect them to agree with our decisions, but we hope that they respect our decision.”
Having two Stanley Cup-winning goalies doesn’t make the decision any easier on whom to start.
“It’s very difficult,” Sullivan said. “That’s been a hard decision for this coaching staff all year long. It’s a good, difficult decision to have because we have two guys that are as capable as they are.”
Notes: Pittsburgh forwards Bryan Rust, Patric Hornqvist and Tom Kuhnhackl and defenseman Justin Schultz have been ruled out for Game 4 with injuries. … Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said forward Alex Burrows was a game-time decision, but defenseman Mark Borowiecki remains out.
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