The Pittsburgh Penguins face the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Consol Energy Center.
After much debate over the past few days, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan confirmed what many speculated since Game 4 concluded Friday night. Marc-Andre Fleury will start for the first time since March 31 when he went down with concussion-like symptoms. The Flower made his first appear in almost 2 months in the third period Friday night, making 7 saves as the Penguins lost 4-3.
Some may have thought Sullivan would stick with the rookie Matt Murray, who has looked brilliant in these playoffs. But the young netminder yielded four goals in two periods of work in Game 4.
Coupled with the Penguins offensive struggles, the Sullivan had no choice, to change the momentum of the game he needed to make a change in net. The team responded with the Flower in net, scoring three goals to get back within one.
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You can’t discredit the success Murray had leading these Penguins through these playoffs, displaying the confidence and poise of a veteran goalie. He was able to out duel to the best goalies in hockey in the first two rounds, but the 21 year old finally hit a wall. Luckily, the team has one of the best goalies in hockey waiting in the wings.
Now it is Fleury’s team moving forward. Though the guys in the locker room believed in Murray, the Flower has been the rock of the organization for a decade. He has delivered when the lights are brightest and is coming off one of his best seasons in quite some time. Fleury may have faltered recently in the playoffs, but that was then this is now.
Unlike those years, he has a potent attack in front of him. The HBK Line is leading the charge with Crosby and Malkin seeming to have their mojo back. Daley will be tough to replace after he went down with a knee injury, hopefully the changes made by Sullivan keeps the status quo.
The Penguins need six wins to hoist the cup and Fleury will be leading that charge.