Kunitz's second power play goal gives Pens overtime win over Islanders
UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Chris Kunitz scored his second power-play goal of the game 8:34 into overtime, off a pass from Sidney Crosby, and the Pittsburgh Penguins shook off an early deficit and a late blown lead to beat the New York Islanders 5-4 on Sunday in Game 3 of the first-round series.
The Eastern Conference's top-seeded team rode severe ups and downs in taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven matchup.
Pittsburgh trailed 2-0 just 5:41 in but rallied to lead 3-2 before the first period was over. The comeback started with power-play goals just 19 seconds apart by Jarome Iginla and Kunitz.
The Penguins seemed in control in the third period, but New York erased a 4-2 deficit on goals by Kyle Okposo and John Tavares.
Pittsburgh will try to take a commanding 3-1 series lead Tuesday night on Long Island.
Crosby, who had three assists in his second game back after missing a month because of a broken jaw, drew the decisive penalty against Brian Strait, who held the Penguins captain as he drove the net 33 seconds before the winning goal.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma used his timeout to rest his power-play unit, and it paid off. Crosby fed Kunitz in the slot for a hard shot that beat goalie Evgeni Nabokov to win it.
Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang both had two assists in the first period when the Penguins scored a pair of power-play goals 19 seconds apart and added a third tally by Pascal Dupuis in a span of 5:42 to take a 3-2 lead.
Evgeni Malkin added two assists, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves for Pittsburgh.
Matt Moulson and Casey Cizikas scored 3:58 apart in the first 5:41 of the game to rock sold-out Nassau Coliseum, which hosted an NHL playoff game for the first time since 2007.
Penguins defenseman Douglas Murray pushed the Penguins' lead to 4-2 late in the second period, but Game 2 Islanders hero Okposo scored a short-handed goal 5:31 into the third to get New York within one again.
Tavares got the party restarted with 9:12 left in regulation when he got the Islanders even at 4 with his first career NHL playoff goal. Tavares, who had his first assist in Game 2, is rounding into form after being held without a shot in the series opener.
Tavares was serenaded with chants of "M-V-P" when he scored and after the goal was announced to the crowd.
Okposo came to the defense of Moulson on Friday night and fought Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen, in what was deemed to be the turning point in the Islanders' 4-3 win after they trailed 2-0 and 3-1 in the first period.
Okposo also netted the winning goal in that one, with help from Fleury, who knocked the puck into his own net.
Nabokov stopped 20 shots Sunday for New York, which went 0-for-3 on the power play.
The euphoria felt by fans after the Islanders struck for two early goals was gone in a flash — just like the lead.
New York held a 2-0 edge and had two failed power plays before the Penguins snapped to it and stormed back. Islanders defensemen Mark Streit and Travis Hamonic were whistled for hooking and tripping penalties 34 seconds apart to give Pittsburgh just the opportunity it needed.
The Penguins needed mere seconds to make the Islanders pay — twice.
Iginla cut the deficit in half at 13:18 when he deflected Kris Letangs's hard one-timer, off a pass from Crosby, past Nabokov on Pittsburgh's only shot of the two-man advantage. The Penguins needed only one more drive to get even.
Malkin sent a pass from blue line to blue line to Kunitz, who streaked in alone on Nabokov and snapped a shot inside the right post to tie it.
The derisive chants directed on Fleury along with the deafening cheers by the home crowd were soon replaced with nervous words of encouragement for the Islanders.
It didn't help.
Crosby showed off his exceptional passing skills again after he surged into the right circle. Crouched down, putting his weight toward his backhand side, Crosby deftly eluded a defenseman and slid the puck in front to the hard-charging Dupuis, who crashed into Tavares — covering late — and shoved the puck in to give the Penguins a 3-2 edge with 1 minute remaining in the period.
After being badly outshot early, the Penguins closed the gap to 13-8 in the period.
Clearly buoyed by their first-period comeback, the Penguins raced up ice time after time in waves. It finally paid off with 2:50 left in the second, less than four minutes after Islanders coach Jack Capuano used his lone timeout.
Malkin flung a pass from the middle of the right wing boards in the New York end back to Murray, who took a hard drive from above the left circle that sailed past Nabokov to make it 4-2.
NOTES: The Penguins won both regular-season games at Nassau Coliseum 4-2. Brandon Sutter scored the winning goal in both. ... The Penguins went 25-9-2 in their last 36 day games over the past three regular seasons. ... Pittsburgh tied for the NHL lead with 18 road wins this season. ... Pittsburgh LW James Neal (ankle) missed his second straight game. ... Cizikas scored six goals in the regular season. ... The Islanders haven't won a home playoff game since 2002.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.