The New York Rangers exploded for three goals in just over four minutes to swipe Game 2 on the road in Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon.
J.T. Miller set up all three goals for New York, which evened the best-of-seven series with the Penguins at one with a 4-2 victory. Miller hails from the East Palestine, Ohio, less than a hour's drive from Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center.
Henrik Lundqvist returned with 28 saves in his 112th consecutive playoff start for the Rangers, Keith Yandle, Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider scored for the visitors. Brassard added two assists for a three-point day.
Penguins third-string goaltender Jeff Zatkoff was ordinary in yielding four goals on 28 shots following an excellent Game 1 performance.
Phil Kessel scored the only goal for Pittsburgh, which was still without No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who is still recovering from a concussion.
Evgeni Malkin made an unexpected Game 2 return and was a noticeable presence early on, though less so as the game wore on. Malkin set up the two best chances for Pittsburgh in the opening period, one a give-and-go play with defenceman Kris Letang, the other a set-up of winger Patric Hornqvist on a late-period power-play.
Malkin, who was held without a shot and took no faceoffs, hadn't played since March 11 because of an upper-body injury, returning one week ahead of schedule.
Both Malkin set-ups were stopped by Lundqvist, who was back to start Game 2 after a scary Game 1 departure.
Lundqvist was struck near the eye by teammate Marc Staal's stick late in the first period of Game 1, an incident the goaltender described as "very scary actually". The 34-year-old visited a specialist in Pittsburgh on Thursday where it was determined, to his relief, that no damage was done to the right eye, which remained black heading into the Saturday affair.
Making his second straight start in place of Fleury as well as injured backup goaltender Matt Murray, Zatkoff was sharp off the hop, his best early stop came on a Derek Stepan breakaway about five minutes into the first.
Stepan, who scored twice in the Rangers series opening defeat, blocked a Letang point shot before bursting in alone on Zatkoff, who made a left shoulder save.
Zatkoff was coming off a sterling 35-save performance on Wednesday night, his first in the NHL post-season. Saturday was only the 31st start in the NHL for the one-time third round pick of the Los Angeles Kings.
Lundqvist and Zatkoff traded saves until Kessel opened the scoring less than four minutes into the second with Pittsburgh on a power play. Nick Bonino and Trevor Daley made quick passes, the latter to Kessel, who left no doubt with his first playoff goal as a Penguin.
The 28-year-old added a second goal in the third period and now has 15 goals and 24 points in 24 career playoff games.
New York seemed to gain momentum as the period went on, scoring twice in only 18 seconds just past the midway point of the second.
Yandle scored the first when he jumped in from the point off a faceoff in the Penguins zone, the recipient of Miller's cross-ice pass, which pinged off the tussling duo of Rick Nash and Olli Maatta in front.
The Rangers struck again before Yandle's goal was even announced, this time via breakaway by Brassard, again fed by Miller. The 23-year-old flipped a puck from the defensive zone ahead for Brassard, who blew past Maatta in the neutral zone before beating Zatkoff blocker-side.
Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan challenged the goal for offsides, but video review confirmed it, albeit closely, as a good goal.
New York kept it coming less than four minutes after that, Miller again proving the initiator. Holding the puck deep along the wall in the Pittsburgh zone, Miller first edged to the point with the puck, fooling Kessel on the defence. He then rocketed the pass left to right and through the slot to the Rangers' diminutive Norwegian winger.
It was the third assist of the night for Miller, who set career-highs with 22 goals and 43 points in the regular season.
Kreider padded the Ranger lead to four 39 seconds into the third with his first of the series. Kessel added his second power-play goal of the night a short while later, Bonino's crafty no-look pass from just outside the crease leaving the American winger with a gaping hole to shoot at.
The third frame was played at a frenetic pace, the Penguins comeback attempts falling just short.
New York won despite playing without two of its top-four defencemen, captain Ryan McDonagh and veteran Dan Girardi both out with injuries.
Game 3 takes place Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.