PITTSBURGH (AP) _ It all started when the Washington Capitals pulled Jim Carey, maybe the NHL's best goaltender. Now they're on the brink of pulling off the near impossible.

The Capitals again rallied from a two-goal deficit while holding the NHL's top two scorers, Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, without a goal to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 Friday night.

Riding a rejuvenated power play, the low-scoring Capitals stunned the high-powered Penguins.

Washington, which has blown two-game leads twice in playoff series against Pittsburgh since 1991, took a 2-0 lead into Game 3 Monday night in Landover, Md.

``We play well in that building, and I'm very confident,'' Penguins coach Eddie Johnston said. ``There's no quit in our dressing room. Now it's time for us to pull together. This is a long way from being over.''

But it's also a long way from being a 2-0 Penguins lead, as many in the NHL predicted before the series began. The second-seeded Penguins were coming off the third-best regular season in their history, while the Capitals lost eight key regulars down the stretch and are playing with a lineup fortified with minor-league talent.

Now, that talent is on the verge of a major-league upset.

``But even if was 3-0, it's a long way from being over,'' said Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld, who made the surprise decision to start backup goaltender Olaf Kolzig against the NHL's top-scoring team. ``That team over there has a lot of talent.''

But most of it isn't doing much. Petr Nedved scored twice, giving him four goals in two games, but neither Lemieux, who was constantly shadowed by Mark Tinordi, nor Jagr has a goal.

``We've got to generate more offense,'' said Lemieux, who was held to one assist. ``They're stacking real well in the neutral zone ... but that happens in the playoffs. We have no choice now, we have to go in there (to Landover) and do the job.''

The Penguins wasted an early 2-0 lead for the second straight game and a four-minute power play late in the third period. Since the NHL's best-of-7 format was introduced in 1939, only nine teams have won a series after losing the first two at home.

The Penguins twice trailed 2-0 en route to Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992, but those losses were on the road.

``Last year is last year, this is a different year,'' Ron Francis said. ``What happened in the past doesn't matter.''

The Capitals, 0-for-20 on the power play against Pittsburgh during the season, scored three power-play goals _ two by Pat Peake and the other by Bondra. They also got an empty-net goal from Michael Pivonka with 51.3 seconds left, moments after Pittsburgh couldn't score on four shots during the four-minute power play resulting from Pivonka's high-sticking penalty.

``We took some stupid penalties, and had to play guys on the (penalty- killing) unit, and they were out of gas by the end of the game,'' Johnston said.

Kolzig, who came off the bench to shut out Pittsburgh for 1 1/2 periods in Washington's come-from-behind 6-4 victory in Game 1, didn't learn he would start until the morning skate. Carey found out Thursday night, but was sworn to secrecy by Schoenfeld.

``Carey keeps a good secret,'' Kolzig said. ``They didn't tell me because they didn't want me getting too anxious. I haven't played in a long time and it's tough to get back into game shape. The guys blocked some shots during that last power play, and it's good they did because I was losing my legs.''

The Capitals, who have lost three of four playoff series to Pittsburgh since 1991, did not lead until Peter Bondra scored his second of the series at 11:43 of the third. Bondra skated behind the net, then turned back and slipped the puck over Tom Barrasso's gloved hand.

Just as they did in Game 1, the Penguins surged into a quick 2-0 lead by scoring twice in less than a minute. Just as in Game 1, they couldn't hold it.

Nedved, who scored twice in 11 seconds Wednesday, again opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 3:03. Chris Joseph, scratched from six of the Penguins' last seven games, followed 36 seconds later with his first goal since Jan. 12.

But just as Schoenfeld probably was second-guessing his decision to bench Carey, the Capitals settled back into their safety-first defense and Kolzig settled down.

Peake, the only one of Washington's injured regulars to dress for Game 1, relieved some of the pressure by taking Joe Juneau's pass through defenseman Chris Tamer's legs to score at 3:48 of the second. Peake then tied it at 12:33 by putting in a rebound of his own shot off Barrasso's pads.

Nedved restored Pittsburgh's lead at 13:54 of the second, but the Capitals answered 1:01 later as Mike Eagles carried the puck behind the net and threw a soft shot that trickled under Barrasso's pads and into the net.