After consecutive losses, Murray not worried about a goalie switch

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NASHVILLE — For the first time in his young NHL career, Matt Murray has lost back-to-back games in the playoffs. His Pittsburgh Penguins fell to the Predators, 4-1, Monday at Bridgestone Arena, and now the Stanley Cup Final is tied at two games apiece.

No, Game 4 wasn’t all Murray’s fault, despite what you may have heard from the crowd. The Penguins are suddenly struggling to score, and the goalie can’t do anything about that.

But in only making 12 saves through the first 40 minutes, with three goals allowed, the 23-year-old wasn’t part of the solution. He was outplayed by Pekka Rinne, who’s sure made good on his pledge to “bury” Games 1 and 2.

Murray thought he could’ve done better on Nashville’s third goal, after Viktor Arvidsson was sprung on a breakaway by Mike Fisher‘s spectacular one-handed pass.

“I thought I could’ve been a little more aggressive on it,” he said. “That’s probably the difference right there. If I make the save there, then maybe it’s a different game.”

But Murray did feel he was interfered with on the first goal, even though the coach’s challenge was overruled. The second goal, he nearly made a sprawling save, and at first the referee thought he did. But upon review, it turned out that Frederick Gaudreau had scored.

“I never really look at results to determine how things are going, to be honest,” said Murray. “I go by how I feel out there. A lot of times, whether you win or lose is outside your control, so you just worry about stopping the puck and worry about the things you can control. Honestly, I thought for the most part I played pretty well tonight.”

Except for that one breakaway, he added.

Given recent history, Murray was asked if he worried that head coach Mike Sullivan might make a goalie switch to Marc-Andre Fleury.

No, he wasn’t worried about that.

“I have no expectations,” he said. “I say that every single time. It’s not my decision. It’s not my place to worry about it. I just prepare every game as if I was playing.”

Moments later in a different room, Sullivan was asked if Murray would start the next game.

“We just finished a game about a minute-and-a-half ago,” the coach steamed, and that was it for his answer.

Murray has faced adversity before in the playoffs. For Game 5 of last year’s Eastern Conference Final, he was replaced by Fleury. But after Fleury faltered, Murray returned and was solid in Game 6. The rookie played the rest of the way, and the Penguins won the Cup.

Of course, the Penguins were possession monsters a year ago, a juggernaut that rarely got outshot. Suffice to say, things are different in 2017, and the way their series against the Predators has gone through four games, the Penguins may need Murray to be better than solid.

They may, in fact, need him to steal the Cup.

Or, the Penguins could find their offense again. Nobody would be shocked if they did. They actually felt good about their performance in Game 4, other than the lack of finish.

“Throughout every period, there were some chances there we didn’t capitalize on,” said captain Sidney Crosby. “That’s what you expect this time of year. You’ve gotta play your game to give yourselves a chance. Tonight, we had our chances and they didn’t go in.”

Game 5 goes Thursday in Pittsburgh.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.