PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins rookie goalie Matt Murray seemed to take a step back Friday, but that might not have been his fault.
Murray allowed three goals on 20 shots in Pittsburgh's 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final at Consol Energy Center. After allowing fewer than three goals in five of his first seven Stanley Cup Playoffs starts, Murray has surrendered three goals in three consecutive starts, two of them losses.
But the Penguins aren't concerned with the 21-year-old's play. Instead, they feel their mistakes have placed Murray in difficult positions.
"I thought he played well. I think we can do a lot better job as a team in front of him," defenseman Ian Cole said. "We would hem them in for a while and then give them a Grade A chance. There were times where he didn't get a shot for six minutes and then he gets one with a guy walking right down the pipe, so I think we can play a lot better in front of him and kind of push pucks to the outside and limit their Grade A chances."
Each of Tampa Bay's goals came from one of those chances.
Forward Alex Killorn made it 1-0 with 1:14 remaining in the first period after Pittsburgh defenseman Olli Maatta stumbled and fell while trying to defend Victor Hedman's stretch pass. Killorn was left alone and went forehand to backhand before putting the puck through Murray's five-hole.
Video: TBL@PIT, Gm1: Killorn gets free and beats Murray
Ondrej Palat scored on a power play after the Penguins failed to clear a rebound after Murray stopped Valtteri Filppula's slap shot Murray. The Lightning made it 3-0 on a 3-on-1 rush when defenseman Brian Dumoulin was unable to cut off a pass from Palat to Jonathan Drouin, who one-timed a shot past Murray's outstretched left arm.
"We knew they were a fast, good transition team," Murray said. "They're good at taking advantage of their opportunities, I guess. We didn't give them a lot today, I think only 20 shots, but we gave them a few more Grade-A chances than I think we would've liked and I think the goals were all pretty Grade-A chances. We definitely have to cut down on that."
Murray has started each of Pittsburgh's past 10 playoff games. He is 7-3 with a 2.15 goals-against average and .929 save percentage, but has played in all of 23 NHL games, including the regular season and playoffs.
Since May 2, Murray's backup has been Marc-Andre Fleury, who helped the Penguins to their most recent Stanley Cup in 2009 but has not played since sustaining his second concussion of the season on March 31.
The Game 1 loss to the Lightning is sure to add fuel to the debate about whether Fleury should replace Murray as the starter for Game 2 on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). But when discussing the rookie's performance Friday, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan thought there was no debate: The loss was on those playing in front of him.
"I don't think they saw our best today," Sullivan said. "We've got to make sure that we're diligent with our decisions with the puck and in those 50-50 battles, we have to stay above people and stay in the right side, so we don't allow some of the odd-man rushes. I think if we cut the quality of the chances down, it gives our team a better chance to win."