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Murray solid in return

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

It was a difficult decision for head coach Mike Sullivan. One he didn't take lightly. 

Which goaltender would he start in Game 4 against the Ottawa Senators? Marc-Andre Fleury, who had shouldered the load for the entire postseason for Pittsburgh, or Matt Murray, who led the team to a Stanley Cup title one season ago?

"That's been a hard decision for this coaching staff all year long," he said this morning. "It's a good, difficult decision to have because we have two guys that are as capable as they are, and both of these guys have helped this team win all year long, and they're both high quality people and they're high quality goaltenders."

Ultimately, Sullivan chose Murray, who would make his first start of the postseason.

"We never take these decisions lightly. They're extremely difficult decisions," Sullivan said. "And this is the choice that we made for Game 4."

Murray, 22, rewarded his coach's faith by stopping 24 of 26 shots as the Pens picked up a 3-2 victory on Friday night at Canadian Tire Centre to even the Eastern Conference Final best-of-seven series at 2-2.

"It's always a big boost when your coach has the confidence in you to play a game like this, especially after so long," Murray said. "I really appreciated the confidence that he put in me. I just tried to put my best game on the ice and pay him back for his decision, and try to do my best to give the team a chance to win."

It wasn't an easy task for Murray. His last start was on April 6 in the regular season. A lower-body injury suffered in warmups of the first game of the playoffs has kept him out the lineup, though he did have some relief work in Game 3.

"All you can really do is jump in and try not to think about it," Murray said. "Just try and play with the flow of the game and get lost in the game. I thought I did a pretty good job of that tonight. There are a lot of ways that I could have been a lot better I thought. But all together I felt good about the game."

Murray was tested 37 seconds into the game when Zach Smith ripped a hard slap shot from the blue line. Minutes later Murray sprawled out his body and reached with his right pad to deny Derick Brassard.

"(Murray) made a really big save early on with his leg," forward Chris Kunitz said of that stop. "Right after that our team went into the offensive side and really played with the puck. It gave us that momentum."

Murray's best save came in the second period with the Pens leading 1-0 and Ottawa on a power play. The Sens worked the puck to Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who was alone in the slot. Pageau, who leads the Sens with eight goals this postseason, was stopped on consecutive chances by Murray.

"He made a couple of key saves for us at key times," Sullivan said. 

The Sens really tested Murray and the Pens in the third period as they tried to push for a comeback. Ottawa even had a power play for the final 34.3 seconds of regulation. Murray stopped Erik Karlsson in the waning seconds to seal the victory.

"The team made it a pretty easy game for me," Murray said. "They did a good job and blocked a lot of shots, especially late. It was a really good overall team effort.

"Big kudos to the defensemen and forwards for blocking a lot of shots."

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