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Would Penguins really turn to Fleury for Game 6?

Would Penguins really turn to Fleury for Game 6?

It probably came a later in the series than they wanted, but the Capitals may have planted a seed of doubt in the Penguins and their rookie goaltender Matt Murray with their 3-1 victory on Saturday, forcing the best-of-seven series back to Pittsburgh for Game 6 on Tuesday night.

But is that seed big enough for Penguins coach Mike Sullivan to replace the 21-year-old netminder with 31-year-old veteran Marc-Andre Fleury?

“I really don’t know,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said on Sunday. “I can’t answer that the way you would like me to answer that because I’m not in their room. Whatever goaltender is in, we’re fine with it. It means we must be doing something right if they’re looking to change.”

RELATED: A line change could do Kuznetsov good

Murray has been the Penguins’ most pleasant surprise of the post-season with a 6-2 record, 1.96 GAA, .937 save percentage and one shutout.  But on Saturday night at Verizon Center Murray surrendered three goals on 19 shots in the Caps’ 3-1 win.

Now, Sulivan is faced with his most difficult, and perhaps most pivotal, decision of the playoffs. Does he turn to Fleury, who has not played since March 31 because of concussion symptoms? Or does he stick with Murray, who has allowed 12 goals in five games against the Capitals after allowing four goals in three games against the New York Rangers?

Sullivan’s not saying.

"The reality is, we're fortunate we have two guys right now, in Matt and Marc that we feel strongly about both goalies and their ability to help us win," Sullivan told reporters on Sunday.

Fleury sat out the final five games of the regular season and the Pwnguins’ first seven playoff games. He began practicing with the team before the start of the second round of the playoffs and has dressed as a backup to Murray in Games 3, 4 and 5.

Fleury has a career playoff record of 53-44 with a 2.65 GAA and .906 save percentage. Last year he allowed 11 goals in a five-game series loss to the Rangers in Round 1. Fleury has not taken the Pens past the second round of the playoffs since Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup in 2009.

"I thought Matt played extremely well (Saturday night), as he has this whole series," Sullivan said. "He made the saves that he was supposed to make for us. He made some timely saves for us. He gave us a chance to climb back into that game.”

RELATED: First spot in Eastern Conference Finals locked up

Murray said a couple of “missed saves” – he allowed power-play goals to Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie and an even-strength tally to Justin Williams – was the difference in Game 5, on a night Caps netminder Braden Holtby was brilliant in stopping 30 of 31 shots.

“(Murray) has provided the timely saves for us throughout this playoff series,” Sullivan said, “and we feel strongly that he gives us a chance to win when he's the goalie."

If Sullivan starts Murray on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh and the Capitals win to force a Game 7 in Washington on Thursday, things could get even more dicey for the Penguins’ head coach in a must-win scenario.

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NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: The West is set while the Caps still have work to do


NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: The West is set while the Caps still have work to do

There are only two series left in the first round that have yet to be decided. The Caps just so happen to be playing in one of those series.

After falling into a 0-2 hole to start, Washington has rattled off three straight wins and now sits just one away from putting away the Columbus Blue Jackets and advancing to the second round.

Should the Capitals advance, they will play the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third consecutive season.


The Penguins ended their series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday in Game 6. Jake Guentzel scored four goals in the effort proving once and for all that yes, goaltending is important in the playoffs. Head coach Mike Sullivan has still yet to lose a playoff series as the head coach of Pittsburgh as he led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons.

In the Atlantic, the Tampa Bay Lightning await the winner of the Boston Bruins - Toronto Maple Leafs series after dispatching the New Jersey Devils in five games. After a strong regular season, the Maple Leafs looked poised to take the next step, but Auston Matthews has only two points in five games and Toronto faces elimination at the hands of the Bruins Monday in Game 5.


All four series in the West, meanwhile, have already been decided. Both the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks managed four-game sweeps in the first round and will face one another in the second  The miraculous season of the Golden Knights continues and it would be hard to argue at this point that they are not legitimate Stanly Cup contenders considering all they have accomplished in both the regular season and the playoffs.

Wins by the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets now sets up a second-round battle between the top two teams in the league from the regular season.


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Game 6 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 6 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

After three straight wins, the Caps now sit just one win away from closing out the Columbus Blue Jackets. They will get their shot to finish the series Monday in Game 6.

Nicklas Backstrom was the hero in Game 5 for Washington with three points including the overtime winner. Who will step up in Game 6? The Caps will need to make sure it's not Artemi Panarin who has been held without a point in two straight games. Washington will also need to make sure their penalty kill stays hot as they have killed off 13 straight power plays for the Blue Jackets.

The Pittsburgh Penguins await the winner of this series after closing out the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Will the Caps close out Columbus and set up the rematch?

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 6

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 6 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 6 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 6 on Monday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Washington currently leads the series 3-2.


Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 6 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30


Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 6, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.


Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.