PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray has a chance to win the Stanley Cup twice as a rookie.
"You never know when you're going to be back here again," said Murray, who is in his second NHL season but technically remains a rookie because he played in fewer than 25 games during the 2015-16 regular season. "So I'm just going to try to seize the day."
Seizing the day didn't seem in the cards on April 12, when Murray sustained a lower-body injury during warmups before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury impressed through the first two rounds, with Murray looking down from the press box and eventually watching from the bench. But after Fleury allowed four goals in the first period against the Ottawa Senators in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, Murray returned to allow a combined six goals in four starts.
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He's Pittsburgh's undisputed starting goaltender entering Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Nashville Predators at PPG Paints Arena on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, CBC, TVA Sports).
Murray, 23, was first recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Dec. 15, 2015, three days after his former American Hockey League coach, Mike Sullivan, replaced Mike Johnston as coach of the Penguins. He made 24 saves in his first NHL start, a 2-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 19, 2015.
After going 2-0-1 in three more starts, Murray was sent back to the AHL when Fleury recovered from his first of two concussions that season. He was recalled again on Feb. 21, 2016, and started nine more games, finishing with regular season 9-2-1.
Fleury sustained his second concussion on March 31, 2016, which allowed Murray to take over. After returning from an upper-body injury, Murray allowed one goal in his first two starts and finished the playoffs 15-6, helping the Penguins win the Stanley Cup.
Murray missed the start of this season with a broken hand sustained playing for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, but he returned on Nov. 2 and finished 32-10-4.
That road, while short, has seen several twists and turns. Murray has appreciated it, mostly because he hasn't driven it alone.
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"The journey itself has been amazing," Murray said. "It's been special to be a part of, but to share it with guys who, we basically came up together. We basically grew up together from [Wilkes-Barre Scranton] to Pittsburgh. To be able to share it with guys like that, guys that are honestly some of my best friends, it definitely makes it a little more special.
"[Bryan Rust], we lived together in Wilkes for two years. [Conor Sheary] is my roommate on road trips. We hang out away from the rink all the time as well. So, it's very special to share it with them."
Rust, a 25-year-old wing, had 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists) while playing more than 40 games for the second time in his three NHL seasons.
"Winning it once is hard enough, but trying to do it twice in a row is even harder," Rust said. "I think guys in the room know that."
Sheary, a 24-year-old wing, spent most of his second NHL season on the top line with center Sidney Crosby and is expected to play alongside Pittsburgh's captain when the Cup Final begins. He had 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) in 61 games during the regular season.
"I remember after last year, we had all our Stanley Cup ceremonies and everyone said 'Don't get used to this.' Now here we are again," Sheary said. "We're back with another chance to do that again. I think it is hard to step back and realize this isn't going to happen every year."
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Murray, like Sheary, knows he won't reach the Final on a yearly basis. Because of that, he's trying to enjoy the moment.
"I just feel so fortunate to be here, especially two years in a row," Murray said. "It's something I don't take for granted. Just this team is such a special group and to be a part of it is very special for me and very humbling."