Matt Murray to start for Penguins, Vasilevskiy for Lightning
With the Penguins season on the line, they are making another switch in net, rookie Matt Murray to start tonight in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final.
The Lightning lead the best-of-seven series 3-2. Veteran Marc-Andre Fleury made his first playoff start in Game 5, losing 4-3 in overtime. Coach Mike Sullivan said going with Murray gives them the best chance to win.
"It's a tough situation," Sullivan said. "But it is what it is. We have to make the best decision and that's what we're trying to do."
Murray had gotten the Penguins this far, serving as the starter during this playoff run. Sullivan cited his past performance, as well as his "calming" influence.
"His performance speaks for itself," Sullivan said.
While the Penguins are certainly confident - star Evgeni Malkin guaranteeing Monday that they'd be heading back to Pittsburgh for Thursday's Game 7 - the Lightning feels the same way. The Lightning learned from its experience in last year's Eastern Conference Final, when it failed to close out the series at home in Game 6 after a Game 5 win in New York.
“Last year didn’t work out the way we wanted in Game 6," defenseman Andrej Sustr said. "So we know what we’re playing for and we’re well aware of what we have to do.
The Lightning won't be making a change in net, with G Andrei Vasilevskiy set to make his fifth straight start. He's made 30-plus saves in each of the last four filling in for injured starter Ben Bishop (lower left leg).
Bishop continues to make progress, calling Tuesday's skate the best day he's had on the ice since, but he's still not ready. "It's been a big improvement the last three days as far as how it feels," Bishop said. "It's still not quite there, I'm still favoring it a little bit. It's a process, you can't just jump right in. It's encouraging at least the last three days you're really seeing the improvement, moving a little bit better." Can Bishop return for Cup Final, if team advances? "That's definitely the goal," Bishop said. "You can kind of see the light there. It's just a matter of not trying to do too much, too fast." Captain Steven Stamkos (blood clot) continued to skate with the team but said his status hasn't changed, though admitted today was also his best day on the ice. D Slater Koekkoek said he had to get a few stitches on his lip from the high stick he took during the third period of Game 5, but the fact he was willing to make that play was a good sign. "I think it's confidence, it's coach showing a little trust in me, that's what I'm hoping for," Koekkoek said. Coach Jon Cooper isn't speaking to the media until tonight, so we won't know other lineup decisions. But it would appear like Tampa Bay could stick with seven defensemen (and Koekkoek).