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Stanley Cup Final

Marc-Andre Fleury passes crease, Stanley Cup to Matt Murray

Goalie, about to leave Penguins, symbolically hands trophy to replacement after helping win second straight championship

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / LNH.com Senior Managing Editor

NASHVILLE -- Marc-Andre Fleury knew what he had to do, how symbolic it was, how appropriate it was.

When Fleury accepted the Stanley Cup from Mark Streit, he skated around the ice with it for the third time in a Pittsburgh Penguins uniform.

Everyone knows it was most likely the last.

So when it came time for the Penguins goaltender of the past 14 years, ever since he was taken by them with the No 1 pick in the 2003 NHL Draft, to choose someone to hand the Cup to, Fleury had no doubt who it would be.

It was the man who had taken his job: Matt Murray.

 

[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage | Murray wins Stanley Cup again with Penguins]

 

"I think we did a good job together to win this Cup," Fleury said. "Matt is the goalie of the future for this team, I think it was important for him to celebrate tonight."

Murray, 23, was nearly moved to tears talking about Fleury's gesture, because Fleury had more-veteran players -- Phil Kessel or Patric Hornqvist or Trevor Daley -- to choose from.

But Fleury picked Murray, and he did it for a reason, and Murray fully understood what that reason was.

"He's been a really important mentor for me, just such a support person for me over the last couple of years," Murray said. "There's no way I'm able to play as freely as I do without it being [Fleury] there to support me. He's meant everything to me.

"The fact that he handed me the Cup there says a lot about who [Fleury] is. That meant so much to me, for him to do that. I don't know what made him do that, but I'm very thankful for having him around and to call him a friend and a mentor. He's a special human being."

Video: The guys discuss the play of Murray, Fleury

There was a bittersweet quality to Fleury's twirl with the Cup on Sunday after Murray shut out the Nashville Predators 2-0 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Unlike last year, when Fleury started one game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he was a big part of the Penguins winning the Stanley Cup a second time in a row. Murray was injured during warmups prior to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and that thrust Fleury into the spotlight. 

He helped the Penguins eliminate the Blue Jackets and then the Washington Capitals in the second round, shutting them out in Game 7, before giving way to Murray after a 5-1 loss in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators.

The looming NHL Expansion Draft means the Penguins will not be able to keep Murray and Fleury, and it is a foregone conclusion the 32-year-old will be leaving soon, either to the Vegas Golden Knights or somewhere else.

Because he won't be staying in Pittsburgh.

Video: PIT@NSH, Gm6: Fleury talks winning third Cup title

Winning the Cup gave Fleury the chance to make what was likely his final moment on the ice in a Penguins uniform a happy one, even if the context and what the future holds for one of Pittsburgh's most beloved sports figures may be difficult.

"Marc's a special person, a special athlete," Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said. "You'd really have to convince me there's a better team guy in professional sports, maybe of all time. 

"What Fleury's done for this franchise and what he did in last year's playoffs and then come in this year and win two rounds and turn it over to Murray and stick with it as a team guy, I don't know anybody in professional sports who's a better team guy than him."

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