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Stanley Cup Final

Matt Murray of Penguins honed in on Game 6 against Predators

Focused on task rather than chance to become first rookie goaltender to win Stanley Cup twice

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray is one win away from making history.

Not that he cares to be told.

"I know I personally don't spend much time thinking about it," Murray said Saturday. "I just focus on [Sunday] night's game and doing what I need to do to be prepared and give ourselves the best chance to be successful."

With a win against the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports), Murray would win the Stanley Cup for the second time in his two NHL seasons.

 

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That would be impressive enough, but it's not all Murray could accomplish. He could become the first goalie in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup twice as a rookie.

"I just think we're impressed with Matt as a goaltender," said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, who also coached Murray with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. "He's a competitive guy. He sees the game very well. He's an intelligent goaltender and I think he plays his best when the stakes are high."

After making his NHL debut on Dec. 19, 2015, Murray was 9-2-1 in the regular season before winning 15 of 21 starts during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Because he played fewer than 25 games during the 2015-16 regular season, Murray remained a rookie for 2016-17.

The 23-year-old has replaced longtime Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury as Pittsburgh's starting goalie. Murray is 21-9 in 31 playoff appearances (30 starts) with a 2.01 goals-against average and .926 save percentage, including 6-3 with a 1.87 GAA and .931 save percentage this year.

Though Murray won't discuss those accomplishments, his teammates will.

"It's pretty unbelievable," defenseman Olli Maatta said. "Just that poise and composure he has. It feels like every game, he's in the zone. He's making those huge saves for us and giving us a chance to win."

Forward Conor Sheary also played with Murray in the AHL.

"His rookie year in Wilkes-Barre was a record year as well," Sheary said. "Just to see him grow, come into the NHL and play with confidence, the way he knows he can, is pretty cool."

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Murray's path through his first two seasons has had a few bumps. Last season, he was pulled after allowing four goals on 30 shots in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Murray backed up Fleury in Game 5, which Pittsburgh lost 4-3 in overtime.

With the Penguins trailing that series 3-2, Murray started and allowed two goals in Game 6 and one in Game 7. He then surrendered fewer than three goals in four of six starts against the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Final.

Murray and Fleury were expected to battle for the starting role entering this season, but those plans changed after Murray broke his hand playing for Team North America in the World Cup of Hockey 2016.

He returned on Nov. 11, won 12 of his first 14 starts and finished his second regular season 32-10-4 with a 2.41 GAA and .923 save percentage.

Murray entered the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the undisputed starter. But he sustained a lower-body injury during warmups before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Fleury took over and played well through the first two rounds, including a 29-save shutout of the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the second round, with Murray backing up.

Fleury made 56 saves on 58 shots in Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators, but allowed four goals on nine shots in the first period of Game 3. He was pulled and Murray returned to play for the first time since April 6. He has played every minute since then.

Some questioned if Murray should remain the starter after he allowed eight goals in Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. He answered by making 24 saves in a 6-0, Game 5 win. That shutout has the Penguins one win from becoming the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. But, again, Murray isn't focused on history, only on Sunday.

"I just try to focus on my job and the task at hand," Murray said. "So I'm just taking things one shot a time and one thing at a time. I'm staying in the moment, as I always say."

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