Penguins 4, Maple Leafs 3
May. 12, 1999
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The closer the Penguins come to leaving Pittsburgh, the closer they get to playing for the Stanley Cup.
They are out of money _ and were supposed to be out of the playoffs long ago _ but the precarious Penguins continued to thrive amid chaos by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 Tuesday night to take a 2-1 series lead.
Hours after the NHL told a federal judge that an out-of-town buyer is ready to buy the bankrupt team and move it elsewhere, the Penguins rallied from a 3-2 deficit by scoring on two of only three third-period shots.
The Penguins, the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, will take a 2-1 lead into Game 4 of the second-round series Thursday at the Civic Arena.
Talk about living life on the edge _ the Penguins have rallied to win in the third period in three of their last seven playoff games.
``We were real good coming back in the third period during the season,'' said defenseman Kevin Hatcher, referring to the Penguins' 6-23-7 record when trailing after two periods. ``We have the gamebreakers who can do that.''
The biggest of them all, Jaromir Jagr, scored the tying goal at 9:03 by snapping a shot past goalie Chris Joseph with only 12 seconds left in Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin's tripping penalty.
Jagr, pain-free for the first time since injuring his groin in the first game of the New Jersey series, and Alexei Kovalev then set up Jiri Slegr's first career playoff goal _ and the game-winner _ at 10:43.
Slegr faked a shot to draw Joseph out of the net before slamming the puck into a narrow opening inside the near post.
``I'm happy my first goal in the playoffs was such a big one,'' Slegr said. ``It's just pure excitement.''
Jagr said, ``I told him to get his shots down. All of his shots were hitting off the glass, so he finally listened to me. I didn't want him to keep shooting high, maybe he would hurt somebody.''
But Jagr isn't hurting nearly as badly as he did a few games ago, and the improvement in his health was visible in the improvement in his play.
``It's the best I've felt,'' Jagr said of his three-point game. ``I felt much better this morning and once I got going in the game, I felt good. There was no pain.''
``He still isn't 100 percent, but he looked like he was starting to make plays. He looked like he is on his way back,'' Penguins coach Kevin Constantine said.
The Maple Leafs felt they should be going back to their hotel with a 2-1 lead. They were especially upset that Kevin Hatcher was awarded a second-period goal on a shot that did not conclusively cross the goal line.
Mike Johnson scored for Toronto less than 2 1/2 minutes before Hatcher, stationed near the net, deflected the puck off Toronto defenseman Alexander Karpovtsev's skate and toward goalie Chris Joseph.
Joseph made a backward swipe with his glove hand as a portion of the puck trickled across the goal line near the inside post, causing judge Gary Steffenhagen to flash the goal light.
``There was a ton of spin on it. I thought I jammed my blocker against the post, but it squirted out,'' Joseph said.
Because the numerous TV replays were inconclusive, NHL supervisor of officials Charlie Banfield said the on-ice call was upheld.
``He (the goal judge) was adamant,'' Banfield said. ``If the replays are inconclusive, we go with the call on the ice.''
Maple Leafs general manager Ken Dryden spent 40 minutes after the game reviewing and, at several points, arguing the call with Banfield.
``If the replay couldn't catch it, it's got to be hard for the goal judge to catch it,'' Johnson said.
The Johnson and Hatcher goals began a flurry that saw an 0-0 tie become a 3-2 Toronto lead in a span of only 4:27. Three of the goals _ by the Maple Leafs' Derek King and Adam Mair and Pittsburgh's Bobby Dollas _ occurred only 39 seconds apart.
Mair is only the 12th player in Maple Leafs history to play his first NHL game in the playoffs and only the second to score in that game.
``They were breakdowns,'' Johnson said of the scoring flurry. ``You're coming off a goal and feel excited, and you want to keep it going, but they burned us once and we got them.''
What the Maple Leafs forgot was that with Jagr back on his game, the Penguins are extremely hard to put away in the third period _ as New Jersey found out while losing leads in Games 3 and 6 of their first-round series.
``It's our specialty or something,'' Slegr said.