Just like they did in Game 1, the Pittsburgh Penguins jumped on the New York Islanders early in Game 2, but this time the eighth-seeded Islanders fought back in a stunning 4-3 comeback win that evened their first-round series at one game apiece.
It didn't look like it was possible in the first five minutes, when the Penguins took a 2-0 lead on goals by Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, who made his return from a broken jaw.
In truth, the Islanders were playing much better than in Game 1 even as they allowed Crosby to score twice to open a 3-1 lead by the first intermission. They outshot the Penguins 20-12 in the first period and arguably would have been better off if Evgeni Nabokov had made a big save.
The first goal, by Malkin, went like this:
But Nabokov made big saves the rest of the way, making the comeback possible.
It was the Islanders' checkers -- the same players victimized on the opening goal -- who ground out stereotypical "playoff goals," with Colin McDonald and Matt Martin each pouncing on loose pucks to even the score at 3-3 in the second period.
Fourteen seconds before McDonald's goal, this happened:
Kyle Okposo apparently took exception to a collision between Matt Niskanen and Matt Moulson, though it seemed unintentional. Regardless, Okposo bloodied Niskanen in Okposo's first-ever NHL fight, and McDonald's goal soon after only added to the feeling that the Islanders were handling things differently this time.
The Penguins had a golden chance to take the lead back when John Tavares' high sticking penalty led to a four-minute power play to end the second period and begin the third. But that was where the Islanders' penalty killers, Nabokov in goal and some bad Penguins misses kept things tied.
The rest of the game was a tight and careful affair, with third period shots even at 8-8. But the Islanders broke through on a fortunate bounce with just under eight minutes left.
Okposo hurled a shot wide of Marc-Andre Fleury, but the carom off the end boards went in off Fleury's blocker:
The Pittsburgh crowd fell silent after that, the Islanders played conservatively to protect their lead, and individual forays by Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin did not lead to sustained pressure.
Before the game, we considered three questions. Do we have answers? Why yes, yes we do:
1. How will Sidney Crosby perform in his return?
How is two goals in your first period back? Crosby will likely say he didn't play as he wished, but that's because he has other-worldly standards and expectations. His two goals came from great positioning but not exactly highlight reel plays that you come to expect from him. Not bad for his first game.
2. Will John Tavares be more effective in Game 2?
Yes. Tavares had an assist on the power play, but more noticeably he was generating shots from the get-go. He finished with six shots and won 63 percent of his faceoffs.
3. How will Evgeni Nabokov rebound?
In the end, yes. But it didn't look that way to start. Still, if he's to blame on Crosby's second goal and possibly Malkin's first, he made up for it by shutting the door the rest of the way.
The series heads to New York's Nassau Coliseum for Game 3 on Sunday.