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…