UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Falling behind by two goals less than six minutes into the first period before blowing a two-goal lead in a six-minute span in the third period isn't exactly anyone's blueprint for winning playoff hockey.
But imperfection never looked better to the Pittsburgh Penguins than it did on Sunday afternoon.
Chris Kunitz's power play goal 8:44 into overtime -- his second power play goal of the game -- capped a wildly frantic and entertaining game and lifted the Penguins to a 5-4 win over the New York Islanders in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Nassau Coliseum.
The top-seeded Penguins, seeking their first postseason series victory since 2010, took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is scheduled for Tuesday night at the Coliseum.
Pittsburgh, less than 48 hours removed from squandering a 3-1 first period lead in a 4-3 loss in Game 2, fell behind 2-0 in the first 5:41 on Sunday, but scored four straight goals -- one apiece by Jarome Iginla, Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Doug Murray -- before the Islanders scored twice in the third period to force overtime in front of a boisterous sellout crowd of 16,170.
"It's a playoff game, emotions are high and low, it goes back and forth," Murray said. "But it's not how we want a game to look. We don't want a team to take control early like that and most definitely don't want to give up a two-goal lead in the third. So we're happy with the win, but obviously we have to fix a few things."
The Penguins avoided a second straight demoralizing loss by controlling the offensive flow in overtime, when they outshot the Islanders 6-2, before Sidney Crosby drew a holding penalty on Brian Strait to force the only power play of overtime.
Thirty-three seconds later, Crosby collected his third assist of the game on Kunitz's winner.
"It was pretty emotional," Crosby said. "To be down that early, thought we did a great job just staying with it. And then giving up a two-goal lead in the third period -- can't let that happen, but we stayed composed and found a way. "
The eighth-seeded Islanders, who were playing their first home playoff game since April 18, 2007, have lost seven straight home playoff games dating to their last Nassau Coliseum win in 2002 and haven't won a playoff series since beating the Penguins in seven games in the 1993 Patrick Division finals.
Matt Moulson and Casey Cizikas scored in the first period for the Islanders. Kyle Okposo's short-handed goal 5:31 into the third period pulled the Islanders within one and John Tavares tied it just after the midway point.
"I'm sure they're down right now, but we've bounced back all year," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano, whose team went 11-2-4 in its final 17 regular season games. "I know the resiliency of these guys and the way we battled. We're down two goals in the third period and came back strong, so we'll prepare again for the next game and I know our guys will work hard."
Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves for the Penguins while Evgeni Nabokov made 20 saves for the Islanders.
The Islanders, energized by both the raucous mid-day crowd and the momentum created by their win Friday night in Pittsburgh, dominated the opening minutes and threatened to turn the game into a rout when Moulson and Cizikas scored in a span of 3:58 to whip a playoff-starved crowd into a deafening frenzy.
But Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said the Penguins relied on the experience of squandering an early two-goal lead Friday to remain composed and climb back to regain the lead by the end of the period.
Pittsburgh tied the game less than 14 minutes into the period when Iginla and Kunitz scored a pair of power play goals just 19 seconds apart -- Iginla's goal came on a 5-on-3 -- before Dupuis' goal with exactly a minute left gave the Penguins the 3-2 lead heading into the first intermission.
"They got out to the two-goal lead, they jumped out, the building was pretty crazy and they had a lot of momentum," Bylsma said. "But we wanted to settle the game down, kind of get in the game, and we did draw upon the fact that we saw that in the previous game, where the fortunes were changed (in the first period)."
The Penguins were in control throughout the second period, during which they limited the Islanders to eight shots, before Okposo and Tavares reignited the Coliseum with their third period goals.
"Going into the overtime our mentality was good," Crosby said. "We weren't dwelling on the fact they came back. We knew we had overtime to change the outcome, get it where we wanted. And we were able to do that."
NOTES: Six of the Penguins' 13 goals this series have come on the power play. ... Crosby was playing his second game since missing more than a month with a broken jaw suffered against the Islanders on March 30. ... Penguins winger James Neal, who left Game 1 with an ankle or lower-leg injury after he was hit by Travis Hamonic, was a scratch for the second straight game. The Islanders had no injured players scratched. ... The Islanders' last five losses, dating back to April 13, have all been by a single goal, with four of those coming in overtime. ... The Islanders are 7-7 all time when tied at a win apiece in a best-of-seven series. Their last series win after being tied 1-1 through two games was against Pittsburgh in the 1993 Patrick Division finals. ... The Penguins are 9-11 all time when tied at a game each in a best-of-seven series. Their last series win after being tied 1-1 through two games was against Ottawa in the 2010 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.