Mike Sullivan made his decision.
The Pittsburgh Penguins coach opted to go with Marc-Andre Fleury, the franchise goalie since being taken first overall in 2003, instead of 21-year-old rookie Matt Murray in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It’s a decision that immediately invited second guessing and criticism, and that is likely to continue following Sunday’s result.
The Penguins — without Trevor Daley for the remainder of the playoffs due to a broken ankle — lost 4-3 in overtime, unable to hold on to a one-goal lead in the third period, and now face elimination in the third round. The Bolts are one win away from clinching a second straight berth in the Stanley Cup Final, and that’s without Steven Stamkos or Ben Bishop in the lineup.
Fleury was making his first start of these playoffs. His first start since March 31. He allowed four goals on 25 shots. Alex Killorn started the scoring for Tampa Bay, his wrist shot going over the shoulder of the Penguins puck stopper and cutting into Pittsburgh’s two-goal lead at the time.
It would seem Sullivan has another decision ahead of him when it comes to his starting goalie for a must-win Game 6.
“I’m not going to assess his game right after the game. It’s obviously a disheartening game we just lost. I’d rather digest it a little bit before I jump to any conclusions,” said Sullivan of Fleury to reporters following the loss.
This is the first time in the post-season the Penguins are facing elimination.
“I know that our guys will respond the right way. They have for four months, five months now,” said Sullivan.
“I told them after the game it’s disappointing, we’re all disappointed we didn’t get the result tonight, but we can’t change it. So all we’ve got to do is we’ve got to gather ourselves, we’ve got to go back at it, and try to win a game.”