Sunday, May 08, 2016

Penguins need Fleury in goal in Game 6

May 8, 2016

Pittsburgh Penguins goalies Matt Murray (30) and Marc-Andre Fleury (29) look at the scoreboard during the first period of Game 4 against the Washington Capitals in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, May 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) (The Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — Won't be fair.
But it never was going to be fair.
It is time, though.
It's time for Marc-Andre Fleury. He should be in net for the Penguins on Tuesday night when they try again to eliminate from the Stanley Cup playoffs the best team from the NHL's regular season.
In no way was the Penguins' 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 5 on rookie goalie Matt Murray. It might look that way considering he stopped only 16 of 19 shots, but it would take a cruel coach to blame any of those on Murray.
Not too many goalies could have snagged the puck that Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin ripped past Murray on a first-period power play. Was the threat of another nuclear-level blast from Ovechkin what led to the Capitals' second power-play goal — an easy rebound tap-in by winger T.J. Oshie — in the second period?
Murray maybe should have squeezed the shot from winger Justin Williams that squeaked through his pads for the Capitals' third goal. But Williams never should have been able to take that shot.
A ghastly own-zone turnover by defenseman Brian Dumoulin is what essentially guaranteed the Capitals would play at least one more game.
Well, that and a brilliant goaltending performance from the Capitals' Braden Holtby. He turned aside 29 shots, including a combined 11 from Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.
If Crosby, Malkin and Kessel team up to register 11 shots in Game 6, the Penguins probably will go back to the Eastern Conference final for the first time since 2013.
But it's only probably.
Holtby is completely capable of stealing this series from the Penguins. After all, he has been the best goalie in the playoffs, with a .947 save percentage.
Murray's is .937, which is remarkable and, really, reason enough to give him Game 6. Also, there is his confidence, which is way beyond his limited experience at the NHL level.
Of the Williams' goal, Murray said, “As he releases the puck, I think our (defenseman) hits his stick. So I think he got pretty lucky on that one.”
Williams has a reputation for scoring big playoff goals. He was the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2014.
Not a lot of goalies would go where Murray did with Williams. That Murray did is probably a big part of what the Penguins love about their goalie of the future.
But the Penguins need to look closely at the present. The Cup that this organization has so longed to win again is within reach.
The Cup should end up with the winner of this series.
The series, however, is starting to belong to the Capitals. They were better in Games 3 and 5, and even with the Penguins in Game 4.
And the Penguins appear to be wearing down.
More alarmingly, Ovechkin is heating up with goals in two of the past three games.
Nobody should feel good about the Penguins' chances to win the Game 7 that the Capitals can force with a win Tuesday night. Makes Game 6 the biggest game of the Penguins' season.
So, instead of being a prisoner of the moment, ask yourself the question that coach Mike Sullivan must consider over the next couple of days:
In the biggest game of the season, who should be the go-to goalie for the Penguins?
The choices are a rookie, or a Cup winner.
The answer is the Flower.
Rob Rossi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter@RobRossi_Trib.

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