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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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Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray is in Canada with his family to tend to a personal matter and will be away from the team indefinitely.

The two-time defending Stanley Cup champions recalled Casey DeSmith from their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to serve behind Tristan Jarry. The Penguins host Detroit on Saturday and the New York Rangers on Sunday.

Head coach Mike Sullivan said Friday that Murray will miss at least one game and will be given “as much time as he needs.”

The Penguins are fifth in the crowded Metropolitan Division race heading into the second half of the season. Murray, who backstopped the Penguins to consecutive Cup victories, has been uneven at times this season. The 23-year-old is 15-12-1 with a 2.93 goals-against average.

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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins’ 6-5 overtime win over Boston…

* The Pens are finally starting to build momentum. With tonight’s victory, they have now won consecutive games for the first time since going on a four-game win streak from Nov. 25 to Dec. 2. And was it ever a character victory for the Pens. They were going up against a team that was on a 10-game point streak and playing with plenty of confidence. Despite a bunch of momentum swings and a lot of adversity – most notably watching a 3-1 lead turn into a 5-3 deficit in the second period – the Pens battled through it all.

“I thought we stayed with it,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I give the players so much credit for just staying with it and staying in the fight. I think that’s something we’ve talked about a lot in the last couple of weeks, just making sure that we control our own attitude and own pushback when things don’t go our way during the course of a game. We certainly displayed that tonight.”

* It certainly helps the Pens’ best players were just that: Evgeni Malkin scored twice (including the game-winner), and added an assist, Sidney Crosby finished with three helpers, and Phil Kessel and Kris Letang each recorded a goal and an assist. They were absolutely dominant on the power play, in the third period and overtime, carrying play for the Pens and leading them to victory.

* This was a tough night for the starting goaltenders. At one end, Tuukka Rask was fighting the puck all night. The Pens could sense it, and they kept firing it at him, never letting him get comfortable and beating him clean on most of the goals. Putting up six on a goalie like Rask is incredibly impressive considering he had allowed one goal or less in each of his last five starts. At the other end,  Tristan Jarry had been terrific for the Pens heading into the game and earned the nod, but struggled at times against a Bruins attack that scored at least five goals for the fifth time in their last six contests.

He was replaced by Matt Murray late in the second period, who came in and was strong in relief. He made a game-changing save with 1:01 left in regulation and the teams tied 5-5. Brad Marchand was awarded a penalty shot after a breakaway attempt, but Murray turned aside his attempt to keep the score even and allow his teammates to get the overtime winner.

* The goalie switch was a wakeup call for the Pens, who responded almost immediately. With just 3.6 seconds left in the second period and Pittsburgh on the power play, Crosby made an unbelievable no-look backhand pass from the corner right on Malkin’s tape. He went down on one knee to bury the one-timer, and helped shift the momentum back on Pittsburgh’s side heading into the intermission. Riley Sheahan made sure they kept that momentum by scoring the tying goal less than three minutes in. From there, the Pens pressed and pressed and refused to let their foot off the gas pedal like they did in the second, outshooting the Bruins 17-6 in the period.

* Overall, the Penguins dominated on special teams tonight. Despite having a big challenge in Boston’s No. 2-ranked penalty kill, which has been so successful because of its aggressiveness, Pittsburgh’s No. 1-ranked power play continued to thrive as both Malkin and Kessel found the back of the net.

“I just think they’re so dynamic,” Sullivan said. “They’re instinctive. They have a scheme, there is a framework there, but what separates them from other power plays is their movement and their instinctive play when they go off the grid a little bit. As a coaching staff, we laugh a lot internally because we would say, how do you prescout our power play? I’m not sure if it’s possible because sometimes we don’t even know what they’re going to do. I think that’s just an indication of their talent level and instincts that they bring to the table.”

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s penalty kill thwarted both of Boston’s man-advantage attempts with some tremendous blocks and clears. They are now perfect on the PK in seven straight games. The unit nicknamed the Jacques Squad has had to use different personnel with guys in and out of the lineup, but they’ve jumped in seamlessly. Meanwhile, Riley Sheahan has been an anchor, logging a team-high 2:27 shorthanded minutes while also chipping in a goal

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Once upon a time, two Stanley Cups ago, it appeared the Pittsburgh Penguins’ chance to win a championship was over. When the team fired head coach Mike Johnston on Dec. 12, 2015, it was in dire straits. Superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had seen a drop in production, the depth beyond them was weak, the team was up against the salary cap and it had a starting goalie with a poor recent playoff history.

Then a number of things went the Penguins’ way. New coach Mike Sullivan kicked them into high gear, playing aggressive, up-tempo hockey, and GM Jim Rutherford traded for key role players Carl Hagelin and Trevor Daley. Young goalie Matt Murray came out of the AHL to raise two Cups.

Depending on how optimistic you want to be, you could take different morals from the story of the 2015-16 Penguins. Yes, their recent past proves they can rebound quickly so long as Crosby and Malkin are still around. But a lot of things had to break their way — things that are unlikely to be repeated.

After being a popular Stanley Cup pick this preseason, things haven’t gone swimmingly for the Pens in 2017-18, and they’re currently out of a playoff position. Which direction will the remainder of the season go for the Penguins? Let’s have a look.

Is a hot stretch on the way?

It can be challenging to figure out whether a team’s struggles during a stretch is a matter of poor play or simply puck luck. There are certainly reasonable criticisms of the Penguins’ play, but in this case it’s easy to see how luck is impacting their place in the standings.

At even strength, Pittsburgh has the worst goals for percentage in the NHL. Worse than Arizona. Worse than Buffalo. Dead last.

Considering the talent, it seems unfathomable that the Penguins could be dominated so badly. But their play might not be matching up with the results. Pittsburgh has put the second-most shots on goal in the NHL this season, and has outshot opponents by 136 shots. They have a 50-50 split in scoring chances and close shots, according to the analytics website Natural Stat Trick. But Pittsburgh also has both the worst shooting percentage and worst save percentage in the NHL.

Taking more shots on goal and getting the same number of close shots as opponents, and still ending up last in goal differential is quite difficult to do. In fact, Pittsburgh’s numbers in shots and high-danger shots aren’t much different from last season:

Unfortunately for the Pens, the player with the worst luck of anyone has been Crosby. The future Hall of Famer has never posted a 5-on-5 shooting percentage below 10 percent. This season, just 4.2 percent of his even-strength shots have found the back of the net. Last season, he scored 26 goals at 5-on-5, while he has only three this season in that situation. Crosby’s shot rate is down from 2.3 even-strength shots per game to 1.8, but that shouldn’t be expected to sink his 5-on-5 production to the bottom of the league.

Additionally, Crosby has only six assists at 5-on-5 despite his team outshooting opponents 388-321 with him on the ice. Likewise, No. 1 defenseman Kris Letang has been on ice for a 370-323 shot differential — and the team has been outscored 39-15 during that time.

It’s not impossible for superstar players’ numbers to stay this low, it’s just extremely unlikely.

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The Pittsburgh Penguins knew that this day would eventually come.

That is, the day that they would be face their former longtime teammate, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

“It’s going to be an emotional night (Thursday) when we’re facing him,” said Fleury’s close friend and fellow French Canadian Kris Letang.

Those same sentiments are shared by the rest of the team. Fleury has been beloved throughout the Penguins locker room ever since he arrived in Pittsburgh in 2003, and many will find it bizarre seeing him in the opposing net.

“I tried not to focus on that,” Letang said. “It became a big part of the business that we’re in, you lose friends and make new ones. Obviously Marc-Andre was a special guy, a special player for the Penguins. It’s going to fun to see him. It would be better (to see him) on our side.”

But Fleury, who played 14 years in the Penguins organization after it drafted him first overall, is no longer on the Penguins’ side, thanks to his selection by the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

Fleury, who owns every Penguins franchise record for a goaltender, became expendable with the emergence of Matt Murray. The younger Murray, 23, shared the crease with Fleury last season and has helped Pittsburgh win back-to-back Stanley Cups.

Murray credits much of his early success to Fleury.

“(Fleury) was definitely the biggest mentor I’ve had in my pro career,” Murray said. “I wish I had more time to study under him and be around him. Unfortunately, we’re on different sides now. It’ll be interesting. It’ll be a bit surreal seeing him at the other end, and competing against him. It’ll be a lot of fun as well.”

Murray, who continues to recover from a lower-body injury and hopes to start opposite Fleury on Thursday, recounted his first interaction with his elder mentor.

When Murray made the jump to pro hockey he joined Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The then 19-year-old had a historic debut in 2014-15. He won AHL Goalie of the Year and Rookie of the Year while setting a league record 304:11-minute shutout streak over the span of a calendar month.

That success caught the eye of the goaltender in Pittsburgh.

“We’d never really met before. (Fleury) sought out my number and texted me, ‘Congrats on a great season. See ya next year in training camp,’” Murray said. “It was short, brief, but I still remember it to this day.

“That tells you everything you need to know about the type of person Marc-Andre is. He was a really good friend to me and helped me through every challenge that we faced. I can’t thank him enough.”

But perhaps no player on the roster was closer to Fleury than Pittsburgh’s captain Sidney Crosby. The two were seatmates on the plane and spent a lot of time together during their dozen years as teammates.

And there’s no doubt Crosby would love to score against his old friend.

“When you shoot on a goalie for 12 years I think he gets to know your tendencies pretty good,” Crosby said. “I like to think I know a few things about him too.”

Crosby added that if he does score he will have “a pretty big smile” on his face.

But one thing is certain, regardless of how the game plays out Fleury will not shy away from being vocal in his crease. It’s just another aspect of his personality that made him so endearing to his teammates.

“I’ll talk to them for sure. I always did. It’s not something I’ll change now,” Fleury said.

“He’s pretty vocal in there,” Crosby said with a smirk. “If he’s hooting and hollering that’s probably not good for us. Hopefully it’s not too much on his side.”

But what’s most important for both teams is getting a win, regardless of who is or isn’t in the lineup.

“At this point it’s a big game for both teams,” Crosby said. “I’m sure it’s one that he’s been looking at for a while. We had a great time playing together. It’s different looking at him on the other side. We’re both going to try to do our best to come out to win.”

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The Penguins don’t have a problem this season — they have problems, plural, and every time they think they have one figured out, another one pops up.

They’re obviously getting inconsistent scoring throughout the lineup. Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary and Carl Hagelin are all having down offensive seasons vs. 2016-17. As mentioned here, their even-strength scoring is down overall, and the Penguins have too often looked like a team with a lot of miles on its tires from the past two Stanley Cup championship runs.

But if there’s one number that really sticks out about the Penguins this season, it’s their record in one-goal games. First, it’s the fact that they’ve played a lot of them in a season that has seen its share of large margins of victories. More than half of Pittsburgh’s games — 17 out of 32 this season — have been decided by one goal. Last season, only 22 of its 82 games were one-goal games.

Last season, the Penguins won 19 of their one-goal games and only lost three. This season? They’ve won 10 and lost seven — the most losses in games decided by one goal in the NHL. That doesn’t include three overtime losses, which are obviously also by a one-goal margin.

Their offensive woes are part of these struggles in close games, but there’s another significant change from last season on the defensive side: The Penguins have gone from a .914 team save percentage to an .896 this season. It’s no secret that Pittsburgh has gotten substandard goaltending from its backup netminders in 2017 — it was swell, Antti Niemi — but starter Matt Murray has been no great shakes either, with a very ordinary .910 EV save percentage, down from .932 last season.

The Penguins hope that Murray will bounce back now that he’s off injured reserve, and the Penguins can start picking up wins in the closely decided games.

Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter: Score more goals at even strength! That’s a panacea for any ailing team, but the Penguins’ 5-on-5 production doesn’t resemble what we’re used to from the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs. As of Tuesday, the Penguins had 45 goals at even strength. Where does that rank in the league? A measly 29th. Only the San Jose Sharks and Buffalo Sabres are worse. Pittsburgh has also allowed 103 goals at even strength, which is tied for the second-worst mark in the league. The Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers join Pittsburgh in the cellar. So what gives?

Slow starts also plagued the Pens early in the season and haven’t improved much since. Bottom-six depth has been a concern for this team since it parted ways with veterans Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen. Preseason darling Greg McKegg just couldn’t keep up and landed on the waiver wire last week.

When I watch Pittsburgh, I see a team that looks tired. Maybe the past few seasons are finally taking a toll. How can this be fixed, Penguins fans might ask? An injection of energy — perhaps via a trade — can’t hurt. Offer this roster some fresh legs. Remain hopeful that 23-year-old Dominik Simon can sustain some of the excitement he brought while playing top-line minutes with Sidney Crosby this week. And score early and often on 5-on-5. For as much as the Penguins haven’t looked like themselves early on, and as wild as it is to see them fifth in the division, they’re still in the hunt.

Chris Peters, NHL Insider: I think the Penguins could potentially benefit from a trade, particularly to bring in some scoring depth to make their bottom six more of a threat. Pittsburgh has somewhat limited assets to make such a trade, however. Ian Cole seems like the obvious candidate based on the reports and rumors about him, but I feel like that might plug one hole by creating another in the defensive-depth department. I do potentially like the idea of fresh blood coming in — players who are hungry for an opportunity. Pittsburgh had been able to do that internally with Bryan Rust, Sheary and Murray two years ago, and Guentzel last year. It would be awfully hard for Simon to move the needle as much as those guys did, hence the need for [Penguins GM Jim] Rutherford to look externally.

Then again, I think the Pens still have enough talent on the roster to get out of the funk. It just may take a little more creativity. Staying the course may be an uninteresting option, but Pittsburgh has the worst 5-on-5 shooting percentage in the league right now. It’s hard to expect that to continue. It may not be as easy as snapping one’s fingers so that the goals magically start dropping, but it’s easier to expect things to change when you have this particular roster. Also, if they’re really trying to get that ol’ shooting percentage up, just keep passing the puck to Phil Kessel. The Thrill is on fire right now, with seven goals in his past nine games, and is on a career-best goal-scoring pace.

Finally, now that Murray is back, the Pens have to figure out the right workload for him. With Tristan Jarry showing that he might be ready to take on a few more starts, they can take some of the burden off of their young No. 1 goalie. The amount of hockey this team has played, coming off of back-to-back Cup seasons, undoubtedly puts a strain on the whole team, but especially on Murray, who was essentially thrust into the role while he was still figuring out how to be a goalie in the NHL (and that’s not just about stopping pucks and playing games). He has a pair of Stanley Cups to show he passed the test, but this is still his first full year as The Guy. Keeping him healthy and as fresh as possible should be a priority going forward, especially if the team keeps struggling to score.

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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens’ 4-3 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs at PPG Paints Arena.

 * The Pens couldn’t overcome an early deficit in their showdown with the Leafs. Pittsburgh spotted Toronto a 3-0 lead, which included a 2-0 advantage just 1:42 minutes into the game. The Pens gave a valiant effort to battle back, but the squad came up short.

* Rookie goaltender Tristan Jarry has filled in admirably for the Pens in the absence of Matt Murray, who missed his fifth straight game with a lower-body injury. Jarry made his seventh straight appearance for Pittsburgh, and fifth consecutive start. Jarry had done a great job of handling such a demanding workload. But, as one would expect, the amount of games did take its toll on the young netminder and it finally caught up to him tonight.

Jarry misread a fake shot by Morgan Rielly and couldn’t make up ground to stop Connor Brown 83 seconds into the game. Just 19 seconds later Jarry was caught outside of his crease and scrambled to recover, but was unable to deny James van Riemsdyk.

Jarry appeared to be a step slow and just off his mark. It’s completely understandable that the 22-year-old would tire eventually. The Penguins were asking Jarry to shoulder too heavy of a burden. He did his best, and this loss shouldn’t mar what he has done for Pittsburgh during these past two weeks.

* From one rookie goaltender to another. Pittsburgh turned to Casey DeSmith at the start of the second period. It was only the second-ever career appearance for DeSmith, and he handled himself masterfully. He slid left to right to deny a great cross-ice chance from Zach Hyman. Later DeSmith showed some confidence by coming way out of his net to challenge an off-wing shot by Nazem Kadri. Overall, it was a good showing from DeSmith.

* The Pens’ attempted comeback was thwarted by Tyler Bozak’s tip goal to give Toronto a 4-2 lead. Bozak’s stick was definitely high and the officials reviewed the play. However, it was hard to determine if the stick was above the crossbar. It was the right call to let the goal stand, but it was a back breaker for the Pens.

* Riley Sheahan scored two goals in 80 games during the 2016-17 season, which included a stretch of 79 straight games without a goal. Sheahan already has three goals on the current campaign, and with his second-period tally against Toronto he has goals in back-to-back contests.

Sheahan has 8 points (3G-5A) in his last 12 games. His confidence is growing and finally the pucks are going in for him. Sheahan has been great defensively and on the PK for the Pens. Now he’s becoming a two-way threat.

*Sheahan’s goal was setup by a nice pass from rookie Dominik Simon. He made his season debut and had an immediate impact. Simon was rewarded for his great play with ice time late in the game on Sidney Crosby’s wing and picked up his second assist of the game on the captain’s late goal. Simon played with confidence and it showed.

* There was a scary play early in the second period when Dominic Moore knocked Olli Maatta into the boards feet first. Maatta was down for some time before slowly making his way to the bench. Thankfully, Maatta was OK and didn’t miss a shift.

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Pittsburgh Penguins starting goalie Matt Murray is considered out week to week with a lower-body injury suffered on Monday, coach Mike Sullivan said.

Murray exited with 4:21 left in the second period after Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek crashed into him during a breakaway. The 23-year-old managed to skate off under his own power before limping down the runway, clearly favoring his right leg.

Tristan Jarry stepped in for Murray, and the Penguins rallied for a 5-4 overtime win. Jarry appears to be the solution right now. Pittsburgh also called up goalie Casey DeSmith from the AHL.

Jarry earned his first NHL win against the Lightning Nov. 25, making 33 saves on 35 shots.

“We believe he is a solid goalie,” Sullivan said, according to NHL.com. “I think the game he played against Tampa is a perfect example of what he’s capable of. Tristan is going to have to make timely saves for us game in and game out. We believe he can do that.”

Backup goalie has been a point of concern for the Penguins this season. Antti Niemi, 34, entered the season as the No. 2, but he lasted only three games before being cut loose with a 7.97 goals-against average. That opened the door for the 22-year-old Jarry, who has appeared in only four games this season and one last year.

The Penguins were also missing center Evgeni Malkin Monday for a fourth straight game with an upper-body injury. Sullivan said he is day to day and will accompany the team on its trip to Buffalo Friday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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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.