Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has a sparkling record this postseason following a loss – 4-1 with a 1.80 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage.
He won't get a chance to improve upon those numbers.
Coach Mike Sullivan announced Friday morning at the team's downtown hotel that Matt Murray will replace Fleury as the Penguins starting goaltender for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final against the Ottawa Senators.
Sullivan did not care to talk about the situation much, except to say that it was a tough decision, the team has two good goalies, and Fleury was a total pro about it.
"I'm not going to elaborate on the coach's decision," Sullivan said. "That's a decision we made. We made it for Game 4. We'll see how it goes."
The decision comes in the wake of Fleury allowed four goals on nine shots in 12:52 during a 5-1 Penguins loss in Game 3, but the team played poorly in the game and Fleury had shutouts in two of his past three outings coming in.
Choosing between Murray and Fleury has been something Sullivan has had to do all year, although when both have been healthy, it's been Murray more often than not.
However, when Murray re-aggravated a lower-body injury during warmup before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against Columbus, he had no other choice but to start Fleury.
The results have created the feel-good story of the playoffs for the Penguins, the universally loved veteran relegated to backup duty during the regular season, thrust into duty at a critical time and shining.
Fleury has won nine games while posting a goals-against average of 2.56 and save percentage of .924.
Sullivan and his players have routinely called Fleury the Penguins' best player these playoffs, but nevertheless a change will be made.
"We have two great goalies here," Ron Hainsey said. "We were fortunate that 'Flower' stuck around. ... We'll stick to our game plan and try to go out there and execute it."
The four goals Fleury allowed against Ottawa weren't great, but they also included several instances of bad luck or defensive laps.
One was a bad bounce off the boards. Another off defenseman Ian Cole. Olli Maatta and Mark Streit were caught out of position on separate scores, and Brian Dumoulin lost a one-on-one battle on the last goal.
Much like Hainsey, Penguins players who spoke at the team hotel this morning said they trust both guys and need to do a lot of other things if they're going to avoid a 3-1 series deficit.
"We have confidence in Flower," Chris Kunitz added. "He's played unbelievable for us. We know what Murray's done in the past. ... It's our job to focus on individuals on what goes on."
Sullivan said "of course I did" when he was asked whether he informed Fleury of why he made the decision but declined to elaborate on those talks, offering a simple "no" when pressed whether he would be willing to do.
Both goalies skated Friday morning at the University of Ottawa's Minto Sports Complex, although the Penguins officially canceled their morning skate. Murray left the ice well-before Fleury, the first indication he'd start.
They were joined by defensemen Cameron Gaunce and Derrick Pouliot and forward Bryan Rust.
Defenseman Justin Schultz skated earlier, while Patric Hornqvist skated with the group in a track suit and fellow forward Tom Kuhnhackl performed leg stretches on a soccer field behind the ice rink.
Rust, Schultz and Hornqvist will miss Game 4 with upper-body injuries. Kuhnhackl will be out with a lower-body ailment.
The fact that the first three won't play – Kuhnhackl has been a healthy scratch – might be more impactful than who starts in goal, but that doesn't mean this decision was easy or that it was taken lightly, by the players or their coach.
But if Fleury was upset by the call, Sullivan certainly wasn't letting on.
"Marc was a professional like he always is," Sullivan said. "Both of these guys handle the decisions we make extremely professionally.
"As we always say to them, these guys are both competitors. They both want to be in the net. We don't always expect them to agree with our decisions. Our hope is that they respect our decision.
"Both of them have always been professional. They're competitors. I understand. They want to be in the net. That's what makes them as good as they are. As I said, these decisions are very difficult. That's the choice that we made."