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5 Keys: Penguins at Lightning, Game 6

Pittsburgh needs bounce-back from Murray; Tampa Bay could use 'Triplets' for full game

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

TAMPA -- The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning play Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at Amalie Arena on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The Lightning lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 and can clinch their second consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Final with a win on home ice.

Here are 5 Keys for Game 6:


Penguins coach Mike Sullivan is going back to rookie goalie Matt Murray after veteran Marc-Andre Fleury started in a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 5 on Sunday. Appearing rusty in his first start since March 31, Fleury allowed four goals on the last 14 shots he faced.

Murray, who turns 22 on Wednesday, was pulled after allowing four goals on 30 shots in the first two periods of a 4-3 loss in Game 4 on Friday. After going 6-1 with a .944 save percentage in his first seven starts of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Murray is 3-3 with a .892 save percentage in his past six.

The question is how will he respond after being benched?

"For a 21-year-old his short-term memory is incredible," Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy said Tuesday. "He's been able to put everything behind him. Anything that goes wrong, he forgets about. He's ultracompetitive but he has that mentality where he is always going to save the next puck."

Video: PIT@TBL, Gm4: Murray denies Callahan, Filppula


The Lightning were in this same position a year ago, with Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at home against the New York Rangers, and came out flat in a 7-3 loss. Although they were able to rebound and win 2-0 in Game 7 to advance to the Cup Final, they'd prefer not to take their chances this time around with a Game 7 on Thursday in Pittsburgh.

"You want to win a series the first chance you get no matter what building it's in," Lightning defenseman Matthew Carle said. "We'll try to use the energy of our crowd and we've been pretty good at home throughout the course of these playoffs. But you want to take every opportunity to close that series whatever building it's in."

The Lightning finished the Detroit Red Wings (1-0) and the New York Islanders (4-0) in their first attempts to advance in the first two rounds, but had Ben Bishop in net for those games. Bishop remains sidelined with a lower-body injury, so it will be up to Andrei Vasilevskiy, 21, to close this series.


Sidney Crosby (two goals, one assist) and Evgeni Malkin (one goal, two assists) have been more productive in this series after being limited to two points apiece in the second round against the Washington Capitals. The Penguins need their stars to raise their games to another level now with the team facing elimination.

Crosby hasn't had a point in the past two games after scoring the winning goals in Games 2 and 3, but Malkin has points in the past three games, and appeared to have some chemistry playing with Chris Kunitz and Bryan Rust in Game 5. Malkin on Monday essentially guaranteed there will be a Game 7. Can he and Crosby make it happen?

"We believe in one another," Crosby said. "We've been through a ton of different situations here. And when you go through those things you're tested time and time again, and you feel like you build that confidence in tough situations. So coming off a tough game and knowing we have to bounce back, we've always responded the right way. And I think we all believe we can get the job done here [Tuesday] and get it back to Pittsburgh."


The Penguins haven't had an answer for the Lightning's "Triplets" line of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov. Coach Jon Cooper reunited them with the Lightning trailing 3-2 in the third period of Game 5, and they came through with Kucherov's tying goal and Johnson's overtime goal.

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm5: Kucherov tallies two goals in Game 5

Cooper has been reluctant to use the "Triplets" together for a full game in this series because he wants scoring balance. But with the last line change on home ice and a chance to eliminate the Penguins, he should go for the throat and unleash his most dangerous offensive weapon.

"They're a really good line," Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. "They have a lot of skill, a lot of speed. So we have to be really careful on the ice against them."


Letang had a rough Game 5. He was on the ice for each of the Lightning's four goals and was at least partly responsible for some of them. Maybe the heavy minutes Letang has been logging, 29:09 per game, most of any player remaining in the postseason, have caught up with him. Or he tried to do too much with defenseman Trevor Daley out because of a broken ankle.

He has to be better if the Penguins are to have any chance to win this series.

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