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Penguins coach Mike Sullivan doesn't commit to Game 4 goalie

Will 'sleep on' decision after replacing Marc-Andre Fleury with Matt Murray in Game 3 loss to Senators

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

OTTAWA -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan wasn't ready to commit to a starting goalie for Game 4 after pulling Marc-Andre Fleury in a 5-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday.

Matt Murray relieved Fleury 12:52 into the first period after Fleury allowed four goals on nine shots.

"Quite honestly, I haven't even gotten there yet," Sullivan said. "We're still trying to digest this game that we just played and we'll sleep on it and we'll make decisions on it moving forward."

 

[RELATED: Complete Penguins vs. Senators series coverage]

 

Fleury took over as Pittsburgh's No. 1 goalie while Murray was recovering from a lower-body injury sustained warming up for Game 1 of the first round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Sullivan said Fleury's play wasn't the sole factor in the decision to replace him with Murray after falling behind 4-0.

"We give up four goals as quickly as we did, sometimes when you make a change it's for more than one reason," Sullivan said. "It's a change for the whole group, and sometimes you can affect some positive reaction to it. It's a little bit of a wake-up call, I guess, for the whole group."

Fleury already has shown an ability to respond well after a poor start in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After allowing five goals on 26 shots in a 5-2 loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 6 of the second round, he made 29 saves in a 2-0 win in Game 7.

Video: The guys discuss the Penguins' needs for Game 4

"I think it's important to learn from mistakes and just put it behind you," Fleury said. "Forget about it, get ready for practice [Thursday], have some fun with the guys and get right back at it."

Game 4 is here Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The roles were reversed in the playoffs last season when Murray took over as the Penguins' No. 1 goalie while Fleury was recovering from a concussion. Fleury got the start in Game 5 of the conference final against the Tampa Bay Lightning after Murray was pulled in a 4-3 loss in Game 4.

But Fleury struggled in a 4-3 overtime loss, and Sullivan turned back to Murray for Game 6. The Penguins went on to win the series in seven games and, with Murray in net the rest of the way, defeated the San Jose Sharks in six games in the Stanley Cup Final.

"I think this is whole new experience," Sullivan said. "This is a different year, a different challenge."

But each goaltender understands the situation if Sullivan decides to make a change at some point.

"We both know the deal and we both know how to handle it," said Murray, who turns 23 on May 25. "So I think that's going to serve us well here in the future going forward. The playoffs [aren't] always going to go your way. There's going to be times where we have to face adversity or a rough game or whatever it may be, and you've got to bounce back and move past it."

In his first game since a 7-4 win against the New Jersey Devils on April 6, Murray allowed one goal on 20 shots.

"Not ideal circumstances by any means, but it felt good to try to shake some rust off a little bit," Murray said. "It definitely felt like I hadn't played in about four weeks, so it's good to kind of get that out of the way."

Fleury didn't get much help or luck. On Mike Hoffman's goal that gave Ottawa a 1-0 lead 48 seconds into the game, Kyle Turris' shot from the left faceoff circle deflected of Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley before caroming off the end boards to Hoffman at the left side of the net. From there, Hoffman banked the puck in off Fleury.

The Penguins weren't able to settle down after that, and the Senators scored on three consecutive shots in 2:18 to make it 4-0 and end Fleury's night. 

First, defenseman Marc Methot's shot from the left circle went off Fleury's mask before Penguins defenseman Ian Cole accidentally knocked the rebound into the net at 10:34 to make it 2-0. Next, Clarke MacArthur set up Derick Brassard for an easy tap-in from the right edge of the crease at 12:28 to make it 3-0. Then, Zack Smith's dump-in bounced off the glass behind the Penguins net and carried out into the right circle. Smith retrieved it, circled behind the net and scored on a left post wraparound at 12:52.

Fleury's teammates did not blame him.

"You don't want to put your goalie in that situation. It was just a start that put him in a bad spot, put our team in a bad spot," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "You can't expect to win games getting a start like that, especially in the playoffs."

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