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Stanley Cup Final

Penguins' Murray, Fleury have same goal

Pittsburgh's rookie goalie gets Game 1 start; veteran takes backup role in stride

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins rookie goalie Matt Murray will start Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the San Jose Sharks at Consol Energy Center on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports) and Marc-Andre Fleury will be the backup. Each is attempting to keep it in perspective.

Before Murray discussed taking walks, surfing Netflix and other off-day activities during Media Day on Sunday, Fleury walked to his podium on the opposite side of the room. He sneaked past goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who sat at a table in the middle of the large media contingent, and gave him a light tap on the back of his head before scurrying off, causing Zatkoff to look around somewhat confused.

Fleury was being Fleury. He continued to showcase his jovial personality when speaking in English and French for more than 10 minutes.

"I take pride in being a good goalie and winning games," Fleury said, "but also, it's important to make friends and be nice to people. … It's a lot bigger than me."

Video: Penguins Goalie Matt Murray on Media Day

After sustaining his second concussion of the season March 31, Fleury missed nearly two months and didn't play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs until he replaced Murray at the start of the third period in Pittsburgh's 4-3 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final. Fleury looked sharp, stopping each of the seven shots he faced, but showed rust by allowing four goals on 25 shots in his Game 5 start two days later.

Murray has since started the past two games and allowed three goals on 47 shots.

Those performances have solidified Murray as the Penguins' starting goalie entering the Final.

"I think I'm a little anxious to get started," Murray said. "This is the first time I've been to the finals at any level, so I'm excited and I'm looking forward to it … I'm definitely not oblivious to what's going on. I'm trying to stay in the moment … It's an intimidating thing sometimes, but overthinking it's not going to help."

Watching his young protégé take the reins hasn't been easy on Fleury, but he's taken it in stride.

Things have changed since Fleury last competed in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final. He's married with two daughters. His teammates routinely remark on his growth as a veteran leader on a team with several prominent young players.

Murray's maturity is equally impressive. For someone who celebrated his 22nd birthday less than a week ago, he possesses calmness not often seen in young players, especially goaltenders.

Success didn't come as quickly for Fleury. In his rookie season (2003-04), he won four of 21 games with a 3.64 goals-against average and .896 save percentage. He made his first playoff appearance in his third season, when he lost four of five starts against the Ottawa Senators in the first round.

"[Murray has] been great," Fleury said. "He's pretty confident and pretty calm. … I think, for me, it was a little different. You just go out and play and don't worry too much about anything else. Maybe mentally, it was a little different, but with time I was able to control the outside of the game a little better."

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm7: Murray denies Sustr, Kucherov

The combination of Fleury's exuberance and Murray's poise has helped cultivate a bond.

"I think that Murray coming in and playing as well as he has with [Fleury] being hurt, there could be some instances where the starting goaltender that had been the starting goaltender for 10 years could be a little resentful of that," Penguins defenseman Ian Cole said. "There's never been any of that.

"There's never been any animosity between them. There's never been anything but that kind of mentorship and I know that Murray has a ton of respect for [Fleury] and everything he's accomplished in his career."

Although many feel Murray has performed above expectations, he disagrees. Despite defeating New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy through the first three rounds, Murray thinks his 11 playoff wins in 14 starts have been a product of those in front of him.

"Especially in the Tampa series, I thought I was pretty average," Murray said. "We were able to score enough goals to where it didn't matter. As a team, we dominated most of that series and I know I definitely could have been better."

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