Star burst: Penguins rally from 3-0 hole, win, 5-4
A dejected Rangers Jaromir Jagr leaves the ice as the Penguins celebrates their 5-4 victory.
Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save in front of Rangers Blair Betts in the first period Friday night at Mellon Arena.
Rangers Brandon Dubinsky topples Penguins Marian Hossa against the boards.
Sidney Crosby checks the Rangers Colton Orr in to the boards.
Rangers Brandon Dubinsky celebrates Martin Straka's first-period goal.
Sidney Crosby misses a scoring chance in the first period.
The Rangers' Dubinsky scores against Fleury.
Fleury makes save against the Rangers in the second period.
Evgeni Malkin flies over the Rangers' Fedor Tyutin in the third period.
Crosby celebrates a Penguins third-period goal.
Jarkko Ruutu and the Rangers' Jagr collide in the third period.
Crosby celebrates the winning goal.
The Penguins celebrate the winning third-period goal.
Malkin congratulates teammate Petr Sykora's third-period goal.
Share with others:
The Penguins expect a lot from Sidney Crosby.
They usually get more.
But a goal like this, well, it's not something they should count on.
Not very often, anyway.
Or maybe ever.
Not, mind you, because it broke a 4-4 tie with 101 seconds to play in what became a 5-4 victory against the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the second-round playoff series at Mellon Arena last night.
After all, Crosby has a knack for producing in high-pressure situations.
Just not on slap shots from the top of a faceoff circle.
That, he does about as often as the Comet Kohoutek passes through this part of the solar system. Or as often as the Comet Kohoutek scores from the top of a circle, for that matter.
The catch: While Crosby absolutely hammered a Ryan Whitney pass from the top of the right circle, it didn't get past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist until it had glanced off teammate Evgeni Malkin.
That meant Crosby ended up with an assist, not the winning goal, although he didn't seem terribly put out about losing credit for what would have been his second or third NHL goal on a slap shot.
"It doesn't happen too often," he said. "It figures that would happen, but it doesn't matter how it went in, as long as we got it."
The Penguins have a 1-0 lead in the series, which resumes at 2:08 p.m. tomorrow.
Although Malkin's goal put an exclamation point on one of the finest playoff comebacks in franchise history -- they hadn't rallied from a three-goal deficit since Game 1 of the 1992 Stanley Cup final against Chicago -- he said fatigue, not skill or instinct, is what put him in position to score it.
"I was just standing there with no energy at all," Malkin said through translator George Birman. "[Crosby] shot that puck, and it bounced off my skate."
Tired or not, Malkin was able to appreciate what Crosby got into his shot.
"He just put everything -- all the emotion, all the power -- to shoot the puck that hard," he said.
The Penguins did that a lot in the first half of the opening period, too -- they recorded the first eight shots of the evening -- but Lundqvist prevented them from getting a lead with some stellar saves.
"We knew he's a great goalie, and it would be tough to score on him," right winger Marian Hossa said.
The Rangers, despite failing to get a shot until 8:45, took a 1-0 lead when a Martin Straka centering pass hit defenseman Sergei Gonchar and got past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at 13:40.
Rangers center Chris Drury made it 2-0 at 1:52 when he deflected in a Marc Staal shot from the left point, and Sean Avery pushed the Rangers' lead to three by beating Fleury from inside the right circle at 3:57.
"When you're down by that much, you have to take it in small steps," Crosby said.
The first of those came when Jarkko Ruutu -- and a bit of good fortune -- restored their equilibrium at 8:13, as Ruutu's centering pass to Tyler Kennedy from the left side hit the skate of Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival and eluded Lundqvist.
Fourteen seconds later, Crosby threw a backhand feed from behind the goal line to Pascal Dupuis, who one-timed a shot past Lundqvist from the left hash to pull the Penguins within one.
"The crowd got into it, and we got back into the game," Dupuis said.
And the Penguins proved early in the third that the quick-strike capability they showed in the middle of the second was no accident, as they claimed the lead with goals 20 seconds apart.
Hossa tied the score at 4:40, when a harmless-looking pass from along the goal line near the right corner hit the skate of Rangers center Scott Gomez and ended up in the net. At precisely 5:00, Malkin tossed a cross-crease pass to Petr Sykora, who swatted it into the open right side of the net to put the Penguins up, 4-3.
"It was something new for us, coming back from a three-goal deficit in the playoffs," Dupuis said.
The Rangers didn't wilt, though, and Gomez converted a Jaromir Jagr set-up at 10:04 to tie the score. Overtime seemed likely, if not certain, until Crosby drew an interference minor from Straka at 16:40 -- Straka was angry enough that he earned a game misconduct after regulation expired for protesting it -- then followed it up by unleashing the shot that put the Penguins in front to stay.
Getting the first winner of the series would have been nice, but earning an assist on it seemed like a pretty fair consolation prize.
"It doesn't matter how it goes in," Crosby said. "We're all just happy we got that last one."
First Published April 26, 2008 12:00 am