Murray solid, Penguins win to even series with Senators
OTTAWA — Matt Murray didn't take his place in the crease and make all of the Penguins' problems disappear Friday night.
It might not even be fair to say he did things Marc-Andre Fleury wouldn't have done if he was the starter.
But Murray was solid by any definition of the term, and solid was what the Penguins needed to get back into the Eastern Conference finals.
Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist, Murray made 24 saves and the Penguins secured a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators. The Penguins tied the series 2-2 and will head home for Game 5 on Sunday afternoon.
"That was kind of a point of emphasis for us going into this game, a better start and a little bit more desperation in our game," Crosby said. "With that, we got some good results."
Coach Mike Sullivan announced his much-debated goaltending decision Friday afternoon, giving the start to Murray, who was out since April 6 with a lower-body injury, over Marc-Andre Fleury, who allowed four goals on nine shots in Game 3 on Wednesday.
There's no way Fleury wasn't disappointed in the decision, but Murray gave his teammate credit for helping with his game-day preparations.
"Flower's always really good for that, when to joke around and when to say the right things," Murray said. "He's been great with me in that regard. I owe a lot to him for sure."
Pucks weren't bouncing around Murray at the start of Game 4 as frequently as they were around Fleury in the opening minutes of Game 3, but the Senators applied enough pressure to test the 22-year-old goalie.
Most notably, Murray did a full split to kick out a Derick Brassard rebound bid off a Bobby Ryan shot about seven minutes in and got up none the worse for wear.
"It's not an easy thing to do," Murray said. "All I can do is jump in and try not to think about. Try to play in the flow of the game, let yourself get lost in it a little bit. I thought I did a pretty good job of that tonight. There are a lot of ways I could be a lot better, but overall, I felt good about the game."
With Ottawa's first-period attack blunted and Murray looking steady in net, the Penguins turned their attention to figuring out how to penetrate Ottawa's 1-3-1 neutral-zone clog.
They finally succeeded in the final minute of the first period.
Erik Karlsson got caught up ice after a failed gambit into the offensive zone, giving the Penguins a rare odd-man rush. Olli Maatta, skating up ice with Crosby and Jake Guentzel, finished it off with a wrister from the left wing that hit the right arm of goalie Craig Anderson and found paydirt.
"To score first, I think that's big for us," Guentzel said. "I think we built on that."
The Penguins built the lead to 3-0 in the second period.
Crosby muscled a puck past Anderson at the right post after a cross-crease pass from Guentzel on the power play, and a Brian Dumoulin shot from the left wing banked in off the skate of defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
Fans enter the arena before the start of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final between the Penguins and Senators on Friday, May 19, 2017, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa. For more images from Game 4, visit the Trib's photo gallery .
Photo by Christopher Horner
It came as no surprise to Guentzel that Crosby was at the forefront of the Penguins' biggest offensive output of the series.
"Phenomenal," Guentzel said. "Every big game, you know he's going to be ready. He was there again tonight. We expect it. He's such a high-end talent."
The Senators climbed back in the game before it was done. Ryan set up a Clarke MacArthur redirection late in the second and Tom Pyatt tipped in a Karlsson point shot in the third. Murray made the lead hold up, despite a frantic final minute.
"My team made it a pretty easy game for me," Murray said. "They did a good job and blocked a lot of shots, especially late. Really good overall team effort."
Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel left the game in the first period when his head was driven into the boards on an unpenalized hit by Ryan. Sullivan said Ruhwedel has a concussion.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.