Category Archives: Matt Murray Jersey

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Marc-Andre Fleury doesn’t think anything he has experienced in his 14-year career that could prepare him for his return to Pittsburgh.

The Vegas Golden Knights goaltender — who won three Stanley Cups with the Penguins, including the past two seasons — will be back in Pittsburgh for the first time since Vegas selected him the expansion draft last summer.

Fleury played against — and beat — his former teammates in December in Las Vegas, but he said that doesn’t compare.

“I think it’s different from every game I’ve ever played,” the Penguins’ all-time winningest goaltender said. “In Vegas, I got a little taste of playing against friends and ex-teammates. I guess I got that out of the way. We’ll see.”

Fleury stopped 24 shots in that December game, the first meeting between the teams.

“There’s always motivation when you’re playing against friends and former teammates, especially the position we’re in and what happened when we were there,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “I’m sure he’s excited. It’s probably one he’s been thinking about for a while.”

Fleury practiced in Pittsburgh with the Golden Knights for the first time Monday. He said it was weird to go through his routine in the visitors’ locker room but good to be back in Pittsburgh, where he spent 13 seasons.

“It was my home for so long,” Fleury said. “I met a lot of people over the years who were great to me. It was a fun time.”

Pittsburgh took Fleury as a 19-year-old with the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NHL draft. He set team records for games and minutes played, wins and shutouts.

Current starter Matt Murray stepped in when Fleury went down on the eve of the 2016 playoffs. Murray helped the Penguins to the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup and eventually grabbed the No. 1 job.

Fleury knew his departure from Pittsburgh was inevitable last spring, but didn’t want to become a distraction as the Penguins sought to become the first team in nearly 20 years to win back-to-back championships.

Teams were allowed to protect one goaltender from the Golden Knights in the expansion draft, but players with no-movement clauses had to be protected. Fleury waived his no-movement clause before the trade deadline so the Penguins could protect Murray.

Then he enjoyed one final run with the Penguins.

Fleury regained the starting job when Murray aggravated an injury during warm-ups in the first game of the playoffs. He won nine games and helped eliminate division rival Columbus and the Presidents Trophy-winning Washington Capitals before Murray returned in the third round of the playoffs against Ottawa.

“We tried to do what was best for the hockey team and Marc was just such a professional in how he handled the whole thing,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “Those conversations might have been some of the hardest I ever had as a coach and the reason is because of how highly we think of him. He’s a great player, he’s a great person and he’s a great teammate.”

In Vegas, Fleury has helped the surprising Golden Knights to the top of the Western Conference standings. Vegas has already set the record for victories by an expansion team, and with a win on Tuesday, it would be two from matching the most road wins by a team in its inaugural season.

“From the start, expectations weren’t too high,” said Fleury, who earned his 390th career win Sunday to pass Dominik Hasek for sole possession of 13th place in NHL history. “I don’t think any of us wanted to be satisfied with just being OK or being an expansion team. I think we wanted more than that.”

Fleury will most certainly want more during his return to Pittsburgh.

“You always want to win,” Fleury said. “I don’t think I’m going to block anything out, either. I think it’s going to be a special moment for me, the first game back. I want to remember it and remember my time here.”

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Here are the 3 biggest takeaways from the Penguins’ Tuesday afternoon practice at Honda Center ahead of their matchup with the Ducks on Wednesday night…

1. Murray remains status quo

Goaltender Matt Murray is on the West Coast trip and skated with the team today, but remains status quo. He has missed the last two games for personal reasons.

“His status is the same,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “Matt’s just going to be a day-to-day situation. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow and we’ll make decisions day-to-day.”

2. Happy anniversary

The Ducks traded Carl Hagelin to the Penguins exactly two years ago today. When he first got the news that he was going to Pittsburgh, he never could have envisioned that he would return to Anaheim a two-time Stanley Cup champion just 24 months later.

“At the time, you’re kind of shocked when you get the call,” he said. “Obviously I knew going to Pittsburgh there’s a lot of good players and a great organization, so I was looking forward to that opportunity. There were guys on this team that had won the Cup before and when you have two superstar players like ‘Geno’ and ‘Sid’ and then you add Phil and ‘Tanger’ to the mix, you know you have a good chance.”

Hagelin enters Wednesday’s game against his former team playing his best hockey of the season.

Playing on a line with Malkin and Patric Hornqvist, Hagelin has gotten on the scoresheet in three straight games (1G-3A-4P) and is coming off his first multiple-point effort of the season in Sunday’s 5-2 win over New York. He’s been feeling good for a while now, and it’s translating to the scoresheet.

“For me, it’s all about how I feel on my skates when I feel like I can move the way I want to out there and I can skate the way I want to,” he said. “The game gets a lot easier. It’s different for every guy. Some guys like to have their hands feel a hundred percent and other guys just want their mind to feel 100 percent. But for me, it’s when my skates and my legs are feeling the way they need to feel so that I can play my best.”

Hagelin tends to find his game during the second half of the season, almost like he’s building up steam for the first half of the year before exploding down the stretch.

“I wish it wasn’t like that, but usually that’s been the case,” he admitted. “Around Christmas I start finding my legs and my skating and hopefully that’s the case.”

3. Workflow

The Pens used the same lines and D-pairs that have been working for them throughout their four-game win streak…

Simon-Crosby-Sprong

Hagelin-Malkin-Hornqvist

Sheary-Guentzel-Kessel

Kuhnhackl-Sheahan-Reaves

Dumoulin-Letang

Maatta-Schultz

Hunwick-Oleksiak

“It’s been good,” Sullivan said about settling into some consistency with the combinations. “We’ve wanted to do this for a long time, it’s just that circumstances haven’t always allowed us. We think our team is the hardest to play against when we have the balance through our lineup, when we have the ability to play four lines because we don’t tax guys. That helps us to play at the pace we want to play. We really haven’t been able to do that with any level of consistency up until probably the last few weeks. We’re going to try and do that as much as we can moving forward because we think it gives our team the best chance to win.”

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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens’ 5-2 loss against the Vancouver Canucks at PPG Paints Arena.

* The first period was a wide-open affair and a tale of two tapes. Both teams entered tonight’s game under different circumstances, with the Penguins having three days without a game and the Canucks playing last night in Philadelphia, a 5-2 win over the Flyers. The Penguins looked like they were trying to get their game legs back early, as Vancouver jumped out to a 12-3 shot advantage. The Pens bounced back as the opening frame ended with both teams at 18 shots a piece.

* Similar to when the last time these two teams met on Nov. 4, Brock Boeser was the difference in this one. Boeser capitalized on a turnover in the neutral zone, and placed a perfect shot over Matt Murray’s shoulder to put the Canucks up 1-0 just four minutes into the game.

Boeser tallied again in the second period, this time on the power play, unleashing a one-timer from the top of the right circle that found the twine on the far side, evading a screened Murray. With his two-goal output tonight, the dynamic winger out of North Dakota now has 11 goals in 19 games this season, with five of them coming against Pittsburgh spanned over two contests.

* Jake Guentzel had a strong game as the 23-year-old forward is really starting to heat up with four goals in his past five games, including two tonight on the power play. Operating on the first power-play unit with the absence of injured Evgeni Malkin, Guentzel really made the most of it. His first period goal truly showed off his skating ability. On the power play, Guentzel burst up the ice and corralled a perfectly timed pass from Phil Kessel as he entered the offensive zone, blowing by the Canucks defense. Guentzel ripped a shot from the slot that goalie Anders Nilsson saved, but Guentzel had the smarts to stop at the net and push the second chance opportunity past the Swedish netminder. Guentzel now has points in all four career games against the Canucks.

The Penguins power play went 2-for-5 on the night. They generated a lot of high quality chances, and did a great job of breaking into the zone and targeting the middle of the ice. Guentzel’s second tally with the man-advantage came off a centering feed from Kessel that deflected off Guentzel’s skate in the slot and past Nilsson, cutting the deficit to 4-2 with 18:36 remaining in the final frame.

* Vancouver had three fluke goals that turned out to be too much for the Penguins to overcome. Murray had a strong game despite allowing four goals on 35 shots. He turned aside several high-quality chances in the first period, as well as some good opportunities in the third as the Penguins attempted to claw back into the contest.

On the first weird tally for Vancouver, Kessel was skating back into the defensive zone when he lost possession of the puck to a broken stick laying on the ice behind him. Thomas Vanek picked up the puck and came in on Murray, who patiently turned aside his initial shot. The Penguins were discombobulated in their own end due to the turnover, and Loui Eriksson made them pay with the follow up chance. The Penguins suffered from bad puck luck again in the second period on a shot off the stick of former Penguin Derrick Pouliot. The defenseman took a shot that deflected off Brian Dumoulin’s skate in front as he was clearing the crease and bounced past Murray. The second power-play score for Vancouver, by Boeser, was deflected off of Crosby’s stick.

*The Penguins made a strong push to come back in the game in the third period that was kickstarted by Guentzel’s early power-play goal. The Pens were more physical, punishing the Canucks in their own zone, and generating a lot of chances because of it. The Penguins outhit Vancouver 36-13 over the course of the game and had three power plays in the third period, but Nilsson came up large on numerous occasions, finishing with 43 saves on 45 shots to help Vancouver hold on.

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On Nov. 7, 2016, Darran Dunlap was diagnosed with leukemia. A doctor’s visit for hip pain culminated in something much scarier.

One year later, Darran is doing well, but is still undergoing treatment and dealing with the radiation effects of chemotherapy. On Tuesday, she spent the night inside PPG Paints Arena with her favorite sports team as part of the Penguins’ “Hockey Fights Cancer” Awareness Night, watching as Pittsburgh beat Arizona, 3-1, her smile glowing throughout her entire night.

Penguins vice president of communications Tom McMillan called to invite the family to the game, and as Darran’s father Colin said, it’s something you can’t say no to.

“We’ve never been one to do something to try to get public recognition for her,” said Colin, who is a sports media personality in Pittsburgh. “But we knew it was a sense of visibility to raise awareness and raise funds for pediatric cancer, so that’s why she did it and why we elected to do it. People see a little girl like this, and it’s very real, a person that a lot of parents can relate to a, a real face and a real person.”

The star of the night arrived around an hour before puck drop. Darran mingled with Dan Potash, and was pretending to be interviewed, as he showed her where the players stand and where he conducts his interviews before they tell him to “get out of here Dan,” to which Darran replied, “get out of here Dan!’

Darran then greeted the Penguins players as they entered the ice for warmups wearing their commemorative purple jerseys. The jerseys, to be autographed and auctioned off online will benefit research at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the Mario Lemieux Foundation.

With the clock running down and the players stretching close enough to the hallway to be heard, Darran exclaimed, “Wow, here they come!”

Goaltender Matt Murray was positioned at the opening of the locker room, and was enthusiastically welcomed by Darran. Murray waved back, prompting a trek of hockey players past the youngster, who extended her hand for fist pumps while marveling at their size.

It was one of the many highlights of the night that helped lift Darran’s spirits, literally.

After exchanging fist pumps with the Penguins lineup, her favorite players Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin finally emerged from the back of the line. After they proceeded down the runway, Darran exclaimed “Yay! So cool!” and jumped up and down in excitement, gaining some airtime in the process.

Darran watched part of warmups being held up by her father along the glass, before heading back inside to try to stay warm. Darran was relaxing in the media room when she was greeted by her next guest, Iceburgh. Darran quickly rose from her seat and exchanged a handful of hugs and high fives with the Penguins mascot. Iceburgh air-kissed Darran good-bye, making a ‘mwah’ smacking noise each time, a noise that Darran echoed throughout the hallways after their interaction.

The 6-year-old then made her way down to the Zamboni ramp to stand alongside Jeff Jimerson for his rendition of the national anthem, tapping her feet along to the music of the Penguins opening video before being introduced.

Darran is a big fan of Jimerson and the anthem, consistently standing and holding her hand over her heart at home when she watches it on TV.

Tonight, surrounded by 18,498 fans, Darran took her familiar stance, hand over her heart, still as can be, alongside one of her idols, displaying a certain amount of poise uncanny for someone of her age. She sported a smile and took in the atmosphere as the crowd cheered during her introduction, which provided a much different scene than just watching from home. Darran pointed out to the near blueline, lined with the Penguins starting lineup, and waved.

Jimerson wrapped up the final notes of the anthem with his hand atop Darran’s head, and the two fist pumped at the end of the performance. It was truly a heartwarming feeling that enveloped the building, to see the pure joy on Darran’s face, realizing just how cool the moment was, how special Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night was.

“She stands with her hand over her heart before every single game,” Colin said. “It’s like the game begins when the anthem starts for her. She sees it on TV so much, so for her to actually be in that moment, she was like ‘wow, this is really special.’”

Darran’s connection with the Penguins started shortly after her diagnosis. Colin hosts the morning show on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, and when he mentioned what his daughter was going through, the outreach of support overwhelmed. The Penguins were one of the many who answered the bell, and gave their support when Darran needed it most.

One of the key catalysts of the Penguins’ involvement was Mario Lemieux, who battled and overcame Hodgkins-Lymphoma during his playing days. Lemieux sent a letter to Darran in the hospital, along with an autographed puck in hopes of lifting her spirits and to encourage her to keep fighting.

The Penguins have two players who have faced cancer themselves. Phil Kessel was diagnosed with testicular cancer when he was 19 years old, while Olli Maatta was diagnosed with a tumor in his thyroid, also at 19 years old. Both had surgery and were declared cancer-free shortly after, aided by early discoveries.

“It’s inspiring, it’s crazy how mentally strong these kids are,” Maatta said. “Especially with what they are going through.”

Darran has been incredibly inspiring, through her determination to stay strong through this trying ordeal. A video posted by Colin on his Twitter account depicted his daughter refusing to be carried up to bed, instead walking up the stairs each night to her room. Despite the chemotherapy impacting her strength to do so, she would accomplish her task.

This summer, Darran received a big boost when she opened the front door of the house for a special guest. Penguins equipment manager Danny Kroll brought the Stanley Cup to the Dunlap’s house, surprising Darran and her twin brother, Declan. Darran went crazy, exclaiming her disbelief at the surprise appearance, and hugging the trophy. The gesture by Kroll, and seeing his daughter’s happiness, brought Colin to tears.

“Danny Kroll could’ve done anything he wanted with the Stanley Cup,” Colin said. “And he did, later that day. Danny came to our house in the morning with the Cup. Here’s a guy that’s a regular Pittsburgh guy that decided to use part of his day with the Cup to come to our house. That really melted our heart and touched our heart. There’s a lot of people that are going through a lot of different things, and for him to take the time out when he could have been with his family was really super.”

Today, Kroll emerged in the arena’s hallway to see Colin, who he’s friends with, and was immediately greeted with a hug from Darran.

It’s been an emotional ride for the entire Dunlap family, but especially for Darran, as treatment continues. She’s remained strong throughout, and her courage has led to ESPN directing an E-60 segment on Darran, highlighted by how each of Pittsburgh’s three professional teams have reached out to her during her battle with leukemia.

Pittsburgh, with each of its professional sports teams cladded in black and yellow, is unique.

It’s not uncommon for a team to support a young child who is battling a life-threating disease. However, for each professional sports team in the city to reach out and make a worthwhile impact in supporting a child who needs it most is something that is unique.

It’s one of the many things that makes Pittsburgh special. As her battle with defeating leukemia continues, Darran has the whole city behind her, supporting her, and a glimpse of that was shown tonight when she was audaciously cheered for by the standing room only sell-out crowd prior to the anthem.

While the city of Pittsburgh can unite over its sports teams collectively sharing black and yellow, it’s great to see them uniting for something worth much more, in providing support for a young girl who needs it most, while she continues to fight her battle with cancer.

Tonight, the Penguins helped provide a memorable night for Darran, with a game that culminated in a Penguins win.

“It says, I think, a lot about the class of the organization,” Colin said. “From the top on down, to the players, all the way to the equipment guy.”

When Darran was asked about her favorite moment, it was hard to choose.

“Everything,” Darran said.

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Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was at Thursday’s 2-1 overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets at PPG Paints Arena, and no, he did not ride his bike to the game.

With all of the drama surrounding his bike – which was stolen, inspired a viral #TeamFindJuJusBike hashtag on Twitter, had the whole city out searching for it and was recently recovered – he figured it was time to give it a break. Plus, he was taking his mother Sammy to the game, so it definitely made more sense just to get a cab.

“I put my baby away, let it rest,” grinned Smith-Schuster, who enthusiastically pantomimed riding a bike when he was shown on the videoboard to Queen’s Bicycle Race, much to the delight of the crowd. “And I took a Lyft here.”

Smith-Schuster has become a big hockey fan since attending his first game in Nashville while on a pre-draft visit to the Tennessee Titans back in April. He went to one of the Predators’ playoff games against the Chicago Blackhawks – who they upset in a first-round sweep.

Once he arrived in Pittsburgh after being selected by the Steelers in the second round of the NFL Draft, Smith-Schuster learned that, coincidentally enough, the Penguins were playing the Predators in the Stanley Cup Final.

“I guess throughout that (NSH-CHI) series, it was really crazy,” Smith-Schuster said. “And when I finally got to Pittsburgh, I got drafted and I was like, ‘man, our Penguins are really good.’ I was like, ‘who are they playing?’ They said the Preds. I was like, ‘I just watched the Preds! They’re killing it right now.’ So I came to every playoff home game.”

He ended up being good luck, as the Penguins won all three Final games Smith-Schuster attended. The superstitious Smith-Schuster said he would have definitely attended Game 7 if there had been one, but the Penguins were able to clinch the Stanley Cup in Game 6, which he watched from his hotel.

A few days later, Smith-Schuster got the chance to see the trophy up close when Nick Bonino brought it to Steelers minicamp. He still marvels at the atmosphere in the arena in the games leading up to that second-straight championship.

“It’s so funny, I still have the videos on my phone,” Smith-Schuster said. “I was showing my mom and saying like, ‘this is way crazier in the playoffs.’ She saw and she was like ‘wow, this is a lot crazier.’ I think for me, the experience of playing at Heinz Field, that energy and vibe, I could just feel it in here with the small arena and the excitement it brings to the city.”

We sat down in a couple of empty seats in Smith-Schuster’s section to talk, which ended up being right next to Matt Murray’s father Jim. Smith-Schuster made sure to tell Jim how much he admired his son, which was a pretty awesome interaction.

“I am a big fan of Matt Murray,” said Smith-Schuster, who identifies with him as a fellow young player. “I even told him like, ‘yo bro, I respect your work. Everything you do.’ He was a rookie, too. This is his second year, right? So that’s why I was like, ‘I’m a big fan.’ To be a young guy, to play early and do what he did was pretty dope.”

Smith-Schuster, who is the youngest player in the NFL at 20 years old, said he is planning to get a No. 30 jersey at some point – which is something the goaltender would love to help him out with.

“JuJu is a ton of fun to watch, and seems like an awesome guy,” Murray said. “I’m a huge fan. He’s said some really nice things about me in the media and I really appreciate it. I’d love to swap jerseys sometime.”

The one jersey Smith-Schuster already has is Sidney Crosby, which he was wearing at Thursday’s game.

“Honestly, I just think everything about him is pretty dope,” Smith-Schuster said. “I look up to AB, Big Ben, those guys. And you look at Sid, a leader, a captain, and the way he plays, it’s pretty dope. He’s just a good role model, you know?”

While Smith-Schuster’s favorite Penguins are Crosby and Murray, he said he has so much respect for all hockey players – especially since the last time he skated, it didn’t go well as he fell and busted his head. However, when his mother asked if he would try it again, Smith-Schuster said if he had full pads and protection he would “for sure.”

“The balance they have, I don’t know how they can skate on ice and focus on everything that they’re doing at the same time,” he laughed. “It’s just so much.”

Smith-Schuster may be relatively new to the game of hockey, but he already loves the sport and how much the teams in this city support each other.

“It’s super huge,” Smith-Schuster said. “I think the best part about it is the unity, we ride as one. In other cities, they have different uniforms, different colors, while we’re black and yellow all the way. No matter what we go through in our situations on the field and off the field, we always stick together.”

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The Pittsburgh Penguins placed goaltender Antti Niemi on waivers Monday after he appeared in just three games as Matt Murray’s backup.

Niemi, 34, had a 7.49 goals-against average and a .797 save percentage. That includes allowing seven goals in a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

He gave up four goals in under 10 minutes during the Penguins’ 10-1 drubbing by the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 5.

“[Niemi] just drew the bad hand for three games,” general manager Jim Rutherford told reporters, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He had the back-to-back games and we didn’t do a lot to help him, so I feel bad for him.”

Niemi had signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Penguins in the offseason. Niemi, who won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010, had been with the Dallas Stars the previous two seasons before they bought out the final year of his contract.

Pittsburgh called up rookie goaltender Casey DeSmith from its AHL affiliate in Wilkes Barre/Scranton.

DeSmith and Tristan Jarry will share backup goaltending duties and will be evaluated on a “week-to-week basis,” according to Rutherford.

The Penguins also announced that forward Carter Rowney had been placed on injured reserve after he left Saturday’s game with an apparent hand injury.

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The Penguins are in Florida to play the Panthers in the first game of a back-to-back.

MATCH: Penguins vs. Panthers

TIME: 7:30 p.m. EST

PLACE: BB&T Center

TV: AT&T SportsNet

RADIO: 105.9 FM, the X

5 NOTES ON THE GAME:

1. The Pens have won four-straight games against the Panthers, one game shy of Pittsburgh’s longest winning streak in the history of the series (accomplished twice previously). At the BB&T Center, the Pens are 3-0-2 in their past five visits. Overall, the Pens have a 10-game point streak against the Panthers (8-0-2).

2. Part of the Panthers’ game plan is to shoot from everywhere, as they lead the NHL with an average of 41.8 shots per game and have outshot their opponents in 4 of their 5 games. That includes their 4-3 loss to the Pens on Oct. 14, where Matt Murray faced a regular-season career-high 46 shots.

3. Both Mike Sullivan and Sidney Crosby said it would be crucial for them to hold onto the puck against the Panthers, a skilled team with speed who’s good off the rush. “We’ve got to make sure we take care of the puck, we don’t feed their transition game and we hang onto the puck down in the offensive zone and force them to have to expend energy defending us,” Sullivan said. “I think that’s how you control momentum in games – when you control territory – and that’s when our team is at its best.”

4. Crosby scored twice in the matchup last week, and enters this game with a four-game goal-scoring streak against the Panthers (7 goals total). Meanwhile, Patric Hornqvist has a three-game point streak (2G-1A) against Florida.

5. Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau also scored twice in that game. He has registered at least a point in every game he’s played this season and has 7 points (4G-3A) in 11 career games against the Pens.

INJURIES:

PIT – Matt Hunwick (concussion)

FLA – None

MORNING SKATE:

The Pens did not hold a morning skate. Sullivan will speak to the media at 5:30 p.m.

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On Wednesday night at PPG Paints Arena, the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrated their 2017 Stanley Cup victory by raising their championship banner to the rafters – their fifth such historic piece of fabric in franchise history.

With the fans in their seats, the arena turned the lights down as the excitement, noise, and anticipation among the 18,652 in attendance – a standing-room only sellout – built up.

It didn’t take long for a chant of “Let’s Go Pens!” to radiate throughout the building, setting the tone for what was a palpable atmosphere from the get-go.

Paul Steigerwald emceed the beginning of the festivities, alluding to how this was the first team in the salary cap era to repeat.

“This group didn’t just overcome adversity,” Steigerwald said. “They thrived on it.”

The crowd erupted, which is something that could be said a lot during the pre-game festivities.

First came an exciting laser show, where a myriad of colors splashed both on the ice and throughout the upper and lower bowls, thanks to the interactive bracelets that were distributed to each seat.

The bracelets flashed yellow and white throughout the evening, and glimmered red, white, and blue as Jeff Jimerson sang the national anthem.

Following the luminous presentation was a video tribute on the scoreboard, depicting the Penguins’ memorable year and their march through the playoffs.

The video began in San Jose, looking back at the Penguins celebrating the 2016 Stanley Cup win at the SAP Center. The video transitioned to various highlights of the 2016-17 regular season before chronicling the team’s 2017 Stanley Cup journey, with stops in Columbus, Washington, Ottawa, and Nashville along the way. It concluded with the Penguins celebrating the Stanley Cup in the locker room, capped with champagne, smiles, cheers, and Lord Stanley.

The loudest crowd response came from a shot of Marc-Andre Fleury handing the cup over to goaltender Matt Murray at Bridgestone Arena.

Now the Penguins’ No. 1 netminder, Murray started in his first career season opener – which is surreal to think about, considering he is a two-time Stanley Cup champion – and turned away 29 of 34 shots.

“It was awesome, it was really cool to watch that banner go up,” Murray said. “It’s great, it’s a big celebration we earned, but we tried to put it behind us right away.”

The crowd rose to its feet and provided head coach Mike Sullivan with a lengthy standing ovation, prompting a smile from the coach. When Mario Lemieux was announced, the crowd’s cheers went to a new level as they showed their appreciation for the Penguins owner and legend who now has enough rings to fill a whole hand.

Then came the player introductions, which was highlighted by Sidney Crosby emerging from the tunnel with the Stanley Cup, raising it above his head and then placing it on a podium at center ice. Lifting the trophy for the fans for a second-straight year is something they appreciate, considering none of the Penguins’ five championships have been won on home ice.

“Crosby bringing the Cup on the ice, and the way they framed it with the banner going up was perfect,” Les Lee said. “I thought the energy here was great. It was fantastic. That’s what the Penguins are about, high energy hockey, and tonight really resembled that.”

The anticipation only grew as the 2017 Stanley Cup banner was slowly unraveled with the Stanley Cup framed at the foot of the scene. The applause didn’t wave and cameras didn’t stop flickering, and just as the banner was reaching the rafters, the St. Louis Blues emerged from the locker room – serving as a pleasant reminder that there was still a game to be played and a new season set to get underway.

After the banner raising ceremony wrapped up, the puck dropped on the Penguins’ 2017-18 regular season. Pittsburgh battled back from a two-goal deficit in the 3rd period but ultimately fell to the Blues, 5-4, in overtime.

“It’s special to be able to do that and see the banner raise,” Crosby said. “To share that with the fans and some of the guys who were here last year. It’s good, you can turn the page and move on now. but I think that’s always a special moment.”

Fans who were itching to get back to their second home and enjoy Penguins hockey certainly agreed. A few of them provided their perspective of the special night, documenting how electrifying the energy in the building really was leading up to the game, and how it left a lasting impression on them.

“I thought both (ceremonies were) good, but this year was really great,” Greg Wlahofsky said. “The wrist bands, involving us in the light show, I thought it was cool and how it was coordinated was awesome.”

“The video was nice,” Eric Meuschke said. “It brought back a lot of really good memories.”

After questions surfaced last year about whether the Penguins could repeat in the salary cap era, they did, and now the ante has been upped to a possible three-peat. It had been an emotional week leading up to the banner raising ceremony and Wednesday’s game, as the players received their rings on Monday.

Sullivan wants the feeling of the ring ceremony and tonight’s presentation to ignite the feeling that thrice would be just as nice.

“I think it should inspire us to watch ourselves with some of the highlight reels they watched (Monday) night and the banner raising,” Sullivan said. “For me, it’s a real remembrance that it’s all worth it. All the sacrifice and the commitment that you make to try to achieve the ultimate goal is worth it. And we’ve got a group that’s capable.”

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Sometimes it’s hard to believe that goaltender Matt Murray is still just a youthful 23 years old. After all, he’s accomplished more success in one-and-a-half years in the NHL than most goaltenders achieve in a lifetime.

Murray has led the Penguins to two Stanley Cup championships in back-to-back seasons while tying NHL and franchise records along the way. In fact, Murray’s only two seasons in the NHL ended with him raising the Cup.

So what does Murray do for an encore?

“(The media) asked me that last year too and I’ll give the same answer,” Murray said. “My job is to take things one day at a time. I’m not thinking about results or anything like that. I’m not thinking about an encore. I’m thinking about getting better each and every day. That’s how I’m going to approach it.”

It’s that type of maturity that has allowed Murray to already be one of the premiere performers in his profession at an age where most young adults are just graduating college and seeking to begin their careers.

“Human nature is to get ahead of yourself and thinking too far ahead,” Murray said. “It’s just about taking a minute, relaxing and focusing on the moment that you’re in and not worrying about anything else.

“It can be a challenge sometimes, but that’s what makes it so powerful if you’re able to do it because it’s so hard to overcome that.”

Murray’s maturity both as a player and person is the reason the Pens felt confident enough to put the weight of the franchise on the shoulders of a 23-year-old netminder.

The club left goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, a veteran of 13 NHL seasons in Pittsburgh, unprotected in the Las Vegas expansion draft with the expectations that he would be selected.

Murray and Fleury shared the crease over the past year-and-a-half. But now, the crease belongs solely to Murray. And with that increased workload comes greater responsibility.

“I hope to take a bit more of a leadership role,” Murray said. “That’s something I still need to learn. I’m still pretty young. But I get to watch guys like (Sidney Crosby) and (Kris Letang) each and every day. We have a great leadership group here. I just hope I can add whatever I need to.”

Murray admits that he’s not the most vocal person and that leading by example is his best route of leadership, particularly, his play in between the pipes.

“If you’re confident in your goalie and he stays calm, hopefully the team can stay calm, especially if things aren’t going our way,” Murray said. “I need to figure it out as I go. It’s about staying calm in every situation and staying confident in every situation, building each other up and helping each other feel comfortable out there.”

General manager Jim Rutherford, a former NHL goaltender, doesn’t think Murray has to change much about his game or approach this season.

“He has to be himself, has to be the guy that got him to where he is today,” Rutherford said.

It was only two years ago that Murray was the new guy on the scene, coming into a new locker room. He was welcomed by Fleury. Now he’s paying it forward by welcoming his new creasemate Antti Niemi.

“It’s a little different than the position I’ve been in the last couple of seasons,” Murray said. “He was asking me which areas are the best to live in and I’m happy to give him any advice I can.”

Niemi is a veteran netminder that has played eight seasons in the NHL with Chicago, San Jose and Dallas. Niemi backstopped the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup title in 2010 in his season year of NHL action.

Having a goaltender of Niemi’s pedigree and experience will be a benefit to Murray.

“Obviously he’s been around forever too, so I have a lot to learn from a guy like that,” Murray said. “I’m always going to learn anything I can, especially from a guy like that.

“We have a good relationship thus far. I hope to get to know him a little bit more as we go. I’m sure we’re going to be pretty good friends.”

Relationships between goaltenders are typically stronger than any other position. After all, it’s difficult for, say, a defenseman or winger to understand what a goaltender is going through. But another goalie can completely empathize.

“There is a special bond with goalies because it’s a completely different sport,” Murray said. “You’re not playing hockey, you’re playing goalie. We know what position the other guy is in. I’ve never met another goalie I didn’t like.”

Murray’s backup isn’t the only difference he’ll have to adjust to this season. He’ll also be working with a new goaltending coach. Mike Buckley has taken over for Mike Bales, who left for the same position with Carolina.

Buckley was the Penguins goalie development coach for the previous four seasons and worked a lot with Murray throughout his career. Buckley occasionally visited Murray to lend support and coaching while he was in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and even after the tender jumped to the NHL.

“We have a great relationship and have been working together for a long time,” Murray said. “That’ll be an easy transition. That’ll be pretty natural for us.

“It’s going to be nice having him around all the time, and having just another mind to bounce things off of.”

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Murray stands alone: It’s strange to think that a 23-year-old goaltender in the NHL has played fewer than twice as many minutes in the regular season than he has in the playoffs. It speaks plenty to Matt Murray’s poise and potential as an unchecked No. 1 in the post-Marc-Andre Fleury era. On paper, he’s a top-five fantasy goaltender. That said, he hasn’t played like a workhorse before, and there will be some question as to whether he starts 65-plus games. Workload could limit his value compared to his top-tier counterparts.

Wingers to the stars: It’s been largely settled now that it doesn’t particularly matter who plays wing on the Penguins, as they will need to be monitored for fantasy potential simply due to their proximity to either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. There aren’t wholesale changes from last season, but it’s good to remember than Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel are penciled in for a full season of top-line work, with Guentzel possible for extended power play duty in his sophomore campaign. Patric Hornqvist may also be on the outside looking in for the important roles, his unbroken streak of healthy 20-goal seasons dating back to the previous decade notwithstanding.