The Pittsburgh Penguins weathered an early storm and then stormed out to an amazing victory Friday night.
Down 3-0 early in the second period, the Penguins exploded for five goals en route to a 5-4 victory over the New York Rangers on home ice in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal.
Five different players scored for Pittsburgh, while Sidney Crosby and Ryan Malone collected a pair of assists.
With the game tied 4-4 and overtime looming, Crosby fired a point shot that deflected off the knee of teammate Evgeni Malkin and into the back of the net with 1:41 left in regulation.
Rangers forward Jaromir Jagr had two assists in his first playoff game in Pittsburgh since leaving the team seven years ago
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series goes Sunday in Pittsburgh (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 2 pm ET).
Even when they trailed 3-0, the Penguins never thought they were out of the game.
"We were a little nervous early on. They got the first goal and then the second and the third but there was still almost two periods left, so we just threw everything we had at them and got going. We had those two goals back-to-back (midway through the second period) and we got the momentum back," Penguins winger Jarkko Ruutu told Hockey Night in Canada.
Despite the comeback, Ruutu warned the Penguins can't afford to give teams similar leads in the playoffs.
"We have to learn we can't quit playing after giving up one or two goals. We have to push harder and go forward. Sooner or later it's going to catch up with this," Ruutu said.
If the Penguins were rusty — they had not played since April 16, when they completed their four-game, opening-round sweep of Ottawa — they sure didn't look it in the first period.
Buoyed by a boisterous hometown crowd, the Penguins dominated the opening 10 minutes, outshooting their opponents 8-0 and forcing Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist to make several big saves.
But it was New York that struck first, scoring with the man advantage after Pittsburgh failed to score on two early power-play chances. Martin Straka was buzzing behind the net and his pass in front of the goal went off the skate of Penguins defenceman Sergei Gonchar and past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at 13:40.
Suddenly the Pittsburgh crowd was dead, and they were further stunned into silence when New York notched two quick goals early in the second period.
Chris Drury scored his third of the playoffs at 1:52, tipping a Marc Staal point shot past Fleury. The play went upstairs for video review — Drury appeared to knock the puck in with a high stick — but the goal stood.
New York was up 3-0 less than two minutes later, after Staal fed a pass to Sean Avery, who rushed into the Pittsburgh zone and beat Fleury on the stick side.
The Rangers were in complete control and the Penguins were reeling, but the complexion of the game radically changed with a pair of Pittsburgh goals just 14 seconds apart.
Jarkko Ruutu netted his second of the post-season when his pass in front of the Rangers' net hit the skate of New York defenceman Michal Rozsival and slid past Lundqvist at 8:13. On the next rush up the ice, Sidney Crosby made a nice play to win the puck behind the net and made a backhanded pass to Pascal Dupuis who beat Lundqvist with a quick snapshot to make it a one-goal game.
The Penguins tested Lundqvist early in the third with three successive shots from in close, but the Swedish goalie couldn't contain the Pittsburgh tide for long.
Marian Hossa's wrist shot from the circle deflected off the skate of Rangers forward Scott Gomez and through the pads of Lundqvist at 4:40, and Petr Sykora completed a pretty Pittsburgh passing play with his fourth goal of the playoffs 20 seconds later.
New York battled back and tied things up midway through the period on a goal from Gomez, before Straka was whistled for an interference call with three minutes left in the game, paving the way for Malkin's winner.
"Our power play has carried all us all year. It's been one of our strong points, and that was a great time to get one," said Pittsburgh defenceman Ryan Whitney, who started the play that led to Malkin's goal.
The Penguins were without veteran forward Gary Roberts, still bothered by a groin injury that forced him to miss games 3 and 4 of Pittsburgh's Eastern Conference quarter-final sweep of Ottawa.