CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 06: Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins makes a save against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on January 6, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Fleury makes 2016 playoff debut after Pens give Murray the hook in Game 4

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It’s safe to say that the first two periods of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final won’t go down as the best in Penguins’ history.

The Lightning opened the scoring 27 seconds into the game and they didn’t stop there. After 40 minutes, they’ve jumped out to a 4-0 lead.

Now, the Pens will attempt to shake things up going into the third period, as they’ve pulled Matt Murray in favor of Marc-Andre Fleury.

Fleury has yet to see any playoff action in 2016. The 31-year-old hasn’t played in a game since Mar. 31 against Nashville. He had a 35-17-6 record with a 2.29 goals-against-average and a .921 save percentage this season.

The move seems to have paid off early. Phil Kessel finally got the Penguins on the board early in the third period.

Can Fleury get the starting gig back with a good showing in the third period?

Related:

Murray stays in the game after taking hit to the head

Pens GM says Fleury is ‘absolutely not’ done in Pittsburgh

Rutherford says Fleury’s ‘absolutely not’ done in Pittsburgh, but logic suggests otherwise

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 02:  Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins looks on from the bench in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Washington Capitals during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 2, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Matt Murray‘s emergence this postseason has led to questions about Marc-Andre Fleury‘s future in Pittsburgh (see here and here and here).

But if you ask Pens GM Jim Rutherford about it — like WPXI’s Alby Oxenreiter did on Thursday — you’ll get a pretty definitive answer.

From the NHL:

Q: What about the young players?

Rutherford: “They speak for themselves. Those two goalies – you can never have enough good goalies. The Penguins have three good ones now. I feel bad for Fleury. He’s such a great team guy and we’re fortunate that he is. He’s handled this situation like a pro. First class. He’s ready to go when called on.”

Q [from Oxenreiter]: Does this mean he’s history with the organization?

Rutherford: “Absolutely not.”

That absolute hasn’t kept pundits from pointing out that Fleury’s future in Pittsburgh is far from certain.

First, there’s the fact the No. 1 gig may not just be Murray’s now, but also moving forward — meaning Fleury, who turns 32 in November, would be a backup making $5.75 million annually through 2019. An expensive backup, sure, but also a good backup. Fleury’s had at least 30 wins, a 2.35 GAA and .920 save percentage over each of the last two seasons, and was an All-Star in 2015.

That’s the kind of goalie a few teams could use.

One of them, as has been speculated over the last few months, is the proposed Las Vegas expansion club. While the announcement has yet to be made official, all signs — including discussions of expansion draft format at the most recent GM meetings — have led to assumptions Vegas will be a go.

With that said, consider this bit from Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston:

An interesting aspect of the recent deal worked out by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association regarding expansion draft rules is that only players with a full no-movement clause will have to be protected by their team, according to a source.

Fleury’s contract includes a no-movement clause for the purposes of waivers or being assigned to the American Hockey League, but it is limited when it comes to trades. Each year he submits a 12-team list of teams where he can’t be dealt.

As a result, he’s not exempt from the expansion process and the Penguins would have to decide between protecting either him or Murray if both remained on the roster through the end of next season.

It might ultimately force general manager Jim Rutherford into making up his mind sooner in order to trade one away and get a return on the asset.

Rutherford’s move could be to give Fleury an option for his future. Something like:

“If it’s not going to be in Pittsburgh, want to try and choose a location? Or risk having your location (Vegas) chosen for you?”

A landing spot that’s making the rounds is Calgary. The Flames don’t have a legit NHL starter under contract for next season and, as the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatshek points out, Fleury could be the ideal “transitional guy.”

“In a perfect world you’d bring in a young guy who can play for you for a long time and grow and mature with your group, but if that guy isn’t available and if you think [goalie prospect] Jon Gillies can be that guy in a few years down the road, then you just need a transitional guy,” Duhatshek said, per Sportsnet. “The acquisition cost for a guy like Fleury… that might just be taking him off your hands, free the money off the books, and it doesn’t cost you a tangible asset off your roster.”

Money’s a key part of all this. In the end, money could end up trumping all.

Because as good as Fleury’s been for Pittsburgh, as good as he might continue to be and as well-liked in the room as he is, the Penguins 1) have their goalie of the future in Murray, 2) are hovering very close to the salary cap ceiling, and 3) could certainly use nearly $6 million in cap relief.

It might have to come via trade this summer, because there’s no guarantee Fleury would be picked at a potential expansion draft next year — and who knows where his market value would be by then?

Whether they like it or not, Rutherford and the Pens may need to act sooner rather than later.

No matter now much they love the Flower.

Murray or Fleury? Sullivan plays coy about Pens’ Game 2 goalie

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 13:  Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins walks to the ice prior to Game One of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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One would imagine that Matt Murray‘s job is safe, at least for Game 2.

The guy behind him has a Stanley Cup ring and a $5.75 million cap hit, so any loss will probably prompt people to bring up the name Marc-Andre Fleury.

The question, naturally, is how likely will it be to see Mike Sullivan turn to Fleury instead of Murray against the Tampa Bay Lightning? Perhaps to little surprise during these tight-lipped times in the playoffs, Sullivan played coy.

Even so, Sullivan didn’t throw Murray under the bus by any means.

“As far as what went on last night, we feel as though Matt had a very strong game,” Sullivan said. “The goals that were scored were high-quality chances. Very difficult saves. So I don’t think it’s an instance where Matt had a sub-par performance.”

He then reiterated that it doesn’t mean that the Penguins won’t turn to Fleury regardless.

Still, Murray’s bailed out the Penguins more than once this postseason, and who knows how rusty “The Flower” might be? Judge for yourself if Murray put Pittsburgh in a position to compete in Game 1:

People are already calling for Fleury to replace Murray

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 02:  Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins looks on from the bench in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Washington Capitals during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 2, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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If you needed a reminder about the “What have you done for me lately?” nature of sports, check some of the takes about the Pittsburgh Penguins’ goaltending situation.

By just about any measure, Matt Murray‘s been a revelation in his first playoff experiences. He’s stolen a game or two against the Washington Capitals alone.

Still, the Penguins failed in their first opportunity to close out the Caps in Game 5 with a 3-1 loss. That was enough to prompt some to wonder if the Penguins would be wise to return to “The Flower.”

Granted, there are also plenty of people who mock the idea.

Nature of the beast, perhaps?

It would be surprising if the Penguins went in that direction against the Capitals in Game 6 on Tuesday … though not impossible, apparently.

On the other hand, if the Capitals force a Game 7, all bets are off.

Fleury suits up (but won’t start) and other Caps – Pens Game 3 notes

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been out of action with concussion symptoms, participates in a practice session for the NHL hockey playoffs against the New York Rangers, Monday, April 11, 2016, at their practice facility in Cranberry, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
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The Brooks Orpik hit on Olli Maatta isn’t the only factor in lineup changes for Game 3 between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Maybe the most interesting change starts on the Penguins’ bench … where they likely hope that tweak will stay for at least one night.

Marc-Andre Fleury is apparently healthy enough to suit up for the Penguins, although it appears as though Matt Murray will start:

That’s a clear sign that “The Flower” is healthy enough to play, as Murray would be an injury or a coach’s pull away from giving up the net to Fleury. (One would assume.)

Murray has been fantastic for the most part since taking over for Jeff Zatkoff during this postseason, yet you know how the playoffs can be; people may clamor for Fleury after a loss even if it’s not really Murray’s fault.

Circling back to that Orpik hit, the dominoes seem to fall this way:

Penguins: Derrick Pouliot replaces injured Maatta.

Capitals: Dmitry Orlov in for suspended Orpik.

PHT will make note if there are any swerves.