Murray solid in return to Penguins' net, where he clearly belongs
Credit Mike Sullivan for ultimately making the right call.
The Pittsburgh Penguins head coach set emotion aside and went with the informed decision, starting Matt Murray in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final in favor of Marc-Andre Fleury, who did yeoman's work to get the team into the third round to begin with.
And in his first start of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Murray stopped 24 of 26 shots, backstopping his team to a huge win over the Ottawa Senators on Friday.
The victory tied the series at 2-2, and effectively sealed Murray's fate as the Penguins' starter for the foreseeable future.
Sure, Murray allowed two goals, but neither came as a result of poor efforts on his part. The second, in particular, took several bounces off sticks and skates en route to the back of the net, and the first was the result of a pretty wicked cross-ice pass from Bobby Ryan to Clarke MacArthur.
More importantly, Murray came up huge in the early minutes, where his team had completely fallen apart in Game 3, resulting in Fleury's early exit. He also made key stops in the dying seconds with the Penguins on the penalty kill and with Craig Anderson having vacated the opposing net.
"(Murray) made some timely saves for us when we needed it," Sullivan said after the game. "I thought he was tracking the puck extremely well."
In two appearances against the Senators in the series, Murray has stopped 43 of 46 shots, good for a save percentage of .935.
After the game, Murray told Hockey Night in Canada's Scott Oake that he didn't feel at his best, which is understandable seeing as, prior to Wednesday, he hadn't played since April 6. He added he felt better as the game went on, which could spell bad news for the Senators moving forward.
It would not have been a shock had Sullivan decided to stick with Fleury, but it appears Murray will take it from here, and rightfully so.