The Hockey News - - The First Word -

YOU COULD MAKE the case that with­out Marc-An­dre Fleury step­ping into the breach and car­ry­ing the Pen­guins into the third round of the play­offs, they aren’t even in the Stan­ley Cup fi­nal. But Matt Mur­ray, healthy and back as Pitts­burgh’s start­ing goalie, was a ma­jor dif­fer­ence maker early and late in the fi­nal. To be blunt, Mur­ray was as bril­liant as Pekka Rinne was ter­ri­ble at the other end of the ice in the first two games. Rinne was again un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally shaky in Game 2, sur­ren­der­ing four goals on 25 shots and get­ting pulled af­ter the Pen­guins broke a 1-1 dead­lock with three goals in the first 3:28 of the third pe­riod. His save per­cent­age af­ter the first Pitts­burgh leg of the Cup fi­nal: .778. For the Pens to be able to skate out onto the ice in big games with the con­fi­dence of hav­ing Mur­ray’s calm presence in their net was a huge ad­van­tage for them. Mur­ray’s 37-save vic­tory in Game 2 marked the 20th play­off win of his ca­reer. So cool and poised in the crease, Mur­ray gob­bled up ev­ery puck he saw and, un­like Rinne, did not al­low many sec­ond-chance op­por­tu­ni­ties. And give Pen­guins coach Mike Sul­li­van credit here. He took some heat for put­ting Mur­ray back in the net dur­ing the Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nal af­ter Fleury had played so well, but it was clearly the right de­ci­sion, as dif­fi­cult as it must have been to make. Mur­ray ac­knowl­edged he does get a case of the nerves be­fore he plays, but it cer­tainly doesn’t show. He prob­a­bly doesn’t throw up be­fore games the way Glenn Hall did, but the but­ter­flies are there. “I get ner­vous be­fore pretty much any game,” Mur­ray said. “Nerves is one way to put it, but a lot of ex­cite­ment, too. We get to go out and play the game we love on the big­gest stage.”

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