UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- It was a pretty good weekend in the Kunitz household. On Saturday, Chris Kunitz's 4-year old son, Zach, earned the game ball in his tee ball league. Sunday afternoon, daddy won a game MVP honor of his own by scoring twice, including the overtime winner as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the New York Islanders 5-4 in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead.
Kunitz's heroics 8:44 into overtime were only made possible by a wild Game 3 that saw the Islanders grab a quick 2-0 lead six minutes into the game before the Penguins scored twice on the power play in a 19-second span and went into the intermission up 3-2.
Another game and another disappearing Penguins lead. Behind the energy of the 16,170 towel-waving fans inside Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders clawed back with two goals in a five-minute span in the third period, including Kyle Okposo's shorthanded breakaway, forcing overtime.
Despite falling to hold another lead, the veteran-heavy Penguins weren't feeling any pressure between the third period and overtime.
"[There was] a little bit of calmness," said Kunitz. "Everyone was regrouping knowing that we needed a good effort to get back into it after them getting the building back into the game.”
“Whatever [had] already happened, none of that really mattered," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who finished with three assists. "We all realized we had overtime to get ourselves a win."
In the overtime, it was Crosby who pulled up on Islanders defenseman Brian Strait in the offensive zone, drawing a holding call at 8:11. Just 33 seconds later, the puck squirted out to Paul Martin, who faked a one-timer, dished off to Crosby, who then found Kunitz between the circles to beat Evgeni Nabokov:
The goal went glove side on Nabokov, something the Penguins had to have scouted before the series. Three of their goals, including both of Kunitz's, beat the Islanders netminder above the glove.
Game 4 will come Tuesday night, and for the Penguins there is still much to improve. After practice on Saturday, they talked about the mistakes that aided in the Islanders' comeback in Game 2. Another lead fell to the wayside and the dangerous Islanders did not fade once the Penguins took a 4-2 lead late in the second period.
“That’s not something we can afford to do," said Crosby.
"We need to do a better job not just with the lead, but 5-on-5 as well," said Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma. Three of the four Islander goals came 5-on-5, the result of a inability to clear the puck in front and two turnovers.
"There's still better hockey from our team," said Bylsma.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy