PITTSBURGH (AP) -A memorable Pittsburgh comeback left the Penguins laughing at each other, an improbable victory accomplished. And left the New York Rangers, with their decided edge in experience, wondering how they possibly could lose such a big lead in such a big game.
Evgeni Malkin deflected Sidney Crosby's one-timer from the right point on a Pittsburgh power play with 1:41 remaining to finish a frantic comeback, and the Penguins rallied from a three-goal deficit against the Rangers for a 5-4 victory in their second-round playoff series opener Friday night.
Petr Sykora and Marian Hossa scored 20 seconds apart early in the third period during Pittsburgh's second such flurry of their rally, and the Penguins shook off Scott Gomez's tying goal midway through the period to win it.
"A game is never finished for us," Sykora said, referring to the Penguins' wealth of scorers. "We have the power to score to score a lot of goals here. It doesn't matter if we're down one, two, three goals."
The Rangers lost for the first time in four road games in these playoffs, an unexpected ending after they seized the momentum and, it seemed, control of the game with a 3-0 lead. But they couldn't have guessed the Penguins would twice score two goals in 20 seconds or less against a team known for its defensive commitment and patience.
"Pittsburgh isn't where they're at because they're a poor team and they don't know how to bounce back," coach Tom Renney said. "We were certainly aware of that - almost to a fault."
Just when it appeared the two Atlantic Division rivals were headed to overtime, one of the many former Penguins who played a key role in the game, Martin Straka, was called for interference with 3:20 remaining.
Crosby took Ryan Whitney's pass and, shooting beyond his normal range from beyond the right circle, put a slap shot on net that deflected off Malkin's shin guard for the Penguins' only power-play goal. The play was briefly reviewed to make sure Malkin didn't kick the puck into the net.
"I saw it was going wide and I reached for it and it hit Malkin's leg and went in," goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "We just have to forget this. I don't want to think about it, I just want to move on."
Crosby doesn't own the best slap shot, so Malkin marveled at how he could take such a good one at such a key time.
"His slap shot is, uhh, not that good," Malkin said through an interpreter. "That shot he just put everything in it, all the motion, all the power and he shot that puck that hard."
So hard, they probably felt it in New York.
"(Ahead) 3-0 in the playoffs, you'd like to think it's over, but what are you going to do?" Gomez said. "We can't get in a track meet with those guys. It's over, there's nothing you can do about it."
Game 2 is Sunday in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins have won their last 11.
"That one hurts. I thought we had it," Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr said. "The second one is going to be even tougher, but we have to do it somehow."
The Rangers had tied it at 4 after Jagr - who won the Stanley Cup in his first two NHL seasons with Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992 - carried the puck behind the net, then threw it in front, missing Straka but finding Gomez for a one-timer.
Long before that, Jarkko Ruutu and Pascal Dupuis scored in a span of 14 seconds midway through the second period to get the Penguins back in it after the crafty, patient Rangers appeared to be in control.
"They maybe thought we were going to close the book right there, but we came back hard," Dupuis said.
In a game filled with fortuitous bounces and deflections on a poor ice surface in which nearly every goal ticked off a skate or took a lucky hop, the Rangers took their big lead on goals by Straka, Chris Drury and Sean Avery against Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Drury and Avery, the super pest who riled up the New Jersey Devils during the Rangers' five-game opening round series, scored 1:45 apart early in the second.
But as secure as that 3-0 lead must have looked to Rangers fans with Vezina Trophy finalist Lundqvist in net, the Penguins have the speed and the skill to get back in a game in a hurry. And they did.
"We don't want to behind like that, but we didn't quit and got some bounces and stayed with it," Crosby said. "A lot of goals went off guys. It was one of those weird games where pucks were bouncing everywhere."
Ruutu scored 8:13 into the second to give the white-wearing Penguins crowd its first bit of life since an early surge in which the Penguins had the first eight shots. It became a game again only 14 seconds later when Crosby stole the puck from Christian Backman and set up Dupuis for a one-timer from the left circle.
Hossa tied it early in the third on a goal that may have deflected off Gomez's skate, and Sykora got his fourth of the playoffs only 20 seconds later on a 3-on-2 break with Malkin and Ryan Malone.
Notes: The Penguins are 3-0 in playoff series against the Rangers, winning in 1989, 1992 and 1996. ... Pittsburgh won the first game in each of those series. ... Lundqvist is 12-7-3 against Pittsburgh in his career.
|PPG - Martin Straka (2) ASST: Jaromir Jagr (7), Michal Rozsival (2)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Chris Drury (3) ASST: Marc Staal (1), Nigel Dawes (2)|
2 - 0 NYR
|Sean Avery (4) ASST: Marc Staal (2), Michal Rozsival (3)|
3 - 0 NYR
|Jarkko Ruutu (2) ASST: Jordan Staal (1), Brooks Orpik (1)|
3 - 1 NYR
|Pascal Dupuis (1) ASST: Sidney Crosby (7)|
3 - 2 NYR
|Marian Hossa (2) ASST: Rob Scuderi (2), Ryan Malone (4)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Petr Sykora (4) ASST: Evgeni Malkin (6), Ryan Malone (5)|
4 - 3 PIT
|Scott Gomez (4) ASST: Jaromir Jagr (8), Michal Rozsival (4)|
4 - 4 Tie
|PPG - Evgeni Malkin (3) ASST: Sidney Crosby (8), Ryan Whitney (2)|
5 - 4 PIT
|Jaromir Jagr Cross checking against Sergei Gonchar|
|Christian Backman Interference against Jordan Staal|
|Ryan Whitney Hi-sticking against Ryan Callahan|
|Petr Sykora Hooking against Marc Staal|
|Brendan Shanahan Interference against Max Talbot|
|Brooks Orpik Slashing against Blair Betts|
|Brandon Dubinsky Tripping against Sidney Crosby|
|Martin Straka Interference against Sidney Crosby|
|Martin Straka Game misconduct|