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Kunitz's power-play goal gives Pens Game 3

by John Kreiser

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – In the end, the Pittsburgh Penguins had just a little too much star power for the New York Islanders.

Sidney Crosby drew a penalty in overtime, then set up Chris Kunitz's second power-play goal of the game, 8:44 into overtime, as the Penguins outlasted the New York Islanders, 5-4, in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.

Islanders defenseman Brian Strait was called for holding Crosby as Crosby drove to the net, giving the Penguins their fifth power play. Crosby then set up wide in the left circle, took a pass from Paul Martin and found Kunitz in the slot for a quick shot that beat Evgeni Nabokov cleanly for the win.

The assist was the third of the game for Crosby, who had two goals Friday night in his return after missing nearly five weeks with a broken jaw. But rather than point to any of Sid's assists, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was most impressed with the play that drew the penalty in overtime.

"The best ‘setup' he had was drawing the penalty in overtime," Bylsma said after his team overcame a 2-0 deficit and blew a 4-2 lead in the third period before winning. "That's typical of what Sidney Crosby can do -- he draws a penalty by going down low and going to the net.

"He hasn't played much hockey in the last month, but playing-wise and skill-wise, he's shown quite a bit in two games."

The Penguins now lead the best-of-7 series, 2-1. Game 4 is Tuesday night at the Coliseum, where the Islanders have lost seven consecutive playoff games. New York hasn't won at home in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 2 of the 2002 playoffs.

"We had a tough call in overtime," New York Islanders star John Tavares said. "We've just got to stick with it. It's part of the playoffs. There's a lot of ups and downs that go your way and don't go your way. We just need to regroup and know we're playing some good hockey and creating opportunities. We believe in ourselves. It's a big game for us on Tuesday."

Goals by Jarome Iginla, Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis late in the opening period rallied the Penguins after Matt Moulson and rookie Casey Cizikas had given the Islanders a quick 2-0 lead. Defenseman Douglas Murray, a late-season acquisition from the San Jose Sharks, added a goal late in the second period for the Penguins, the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Pittsburgh took its 4-2 lead into the third period, but New York's Kyle Okposo, who scored the game-winner in Game 2, scored shorthanded early in the third period before Tavares' first Stanley Cup Playoff goal, a laser from the right circle, beat Marc-Andre Fleury at 10:48 to force overtime.

Kunitz blamed himself for Tavares' goal and said he was glad to get the chance to make amends.

"It was my fault on the fourth goal," he said. "I didn't put it deep; I put it wide. They moved up quick. Tavares had a great one-on-one, good shot.

"It's something that you regret, not putting the puck deep. I was fortunate to get one back in overtime to make up for it."

Kunitz's goal silenced a packed house of 16,170 that was roaring from the opening faceoff and had plenty to celebrate when the Islanders scored twice before the game was six minutes old.

New York needed just 1:43 to electrify the building by grabbing the lead when Moulson finally jabbed a loose puck into the net for his second goal in as many games.

A little less than four minutes later, Michael Grabner's perfect pass found Cizikas for a one-timer from the left circle that beat a helpless Fleury at 5:41. The 2-0 lead sent the noise from the Coliseum crowd to decibel levels that hadn't been heard on Long Island in years.

"It was great. I haven't heard the building that loud since I've been here in the last five years," Okposo said of the towel-waving sellout crowd. "We really fed off that. There's a lot of energy in the building. We appreciate the fan support. They were our seventh man tonight."

The Penguins quieted the building by scoring a pair of power-play goals 19 seconds apart to tie the game.

"It was pretty emotional to be down that early," Crosby said. "I thought we did a great job just staying with it."

Mark Streit and Travis Hamonic were issued penalties 34 seconds apart. That was enough of an advantage for the Penguins, who got on the board at 13:18 when Iginla deflected Kris Letang's shot-pass behind Nabokov. Hamonic was still in the box when Kunitz snuck behind the defense, took Evgeni Malkin's perfect pass and beat Nabokov on a breakaway at 13:37 to tie the game.

The back-to-back power-play goals on consecutive shots were the Penguins' fourth and fifth conversions in their first 10 opportunities in the series.

"We came out and the crowd was electric," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "But the discipline on penalties, when you play an experienced team like that, that was obviously the turning point in the hockey game. Two power-play goals, special teams, they got the edge tonight and that's why they won the game."

Crosby, who drew the second assist on Iginla's goal, made the play on Dupuis' go-ahead goal at the 19-minute mark, feeding a backhand pass to Dupuis, who was crashing the net, to get a piece of it and deflect home his third goal of the series.

Thus, for all the good work during their fast start, the Islanders went to the dressing room trailing 3-2 after 20 minutes.

Murray scored his first goal since joining the Penguins just before the NHL Trade Deadline, picking the top far corner at 17:10 for a 4-2 lead.

The Penguins appeared ready to put the game away when Crosby drew a hooking penalty on Strait 3:50 into the third period. Instead, the Islanders got new life when Okposo took a breakaway pass from Nielsen and ripped a wrist shot past Fleury at 5:31 to cut the deficit to one goal.

Fleury preserved the lead a little more than a minute later when he dove to glove Hamonic's right-point wrister just before Nielsen could deflect it. But he could only watch as Tavares sizzled a wrist shot past defenseman Mark Eaton and into the net to pull the Islanders even again.

It was the second time in as many games that the Islanders overcame a two-goal deficit; they trailed 3-1 in Game 2 before rallying for a 4-3 victory. The inability to hold leads has Bylsma looking for improvement from his team in Game 4.

"We can play better," he said. "They're dangerous, they have speed. They make quick plays. We didn't play our best, but we still found a way to win despite giving up a lead. The Islanders gave us a lot to handle, but we still found a way to gut out a win."

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