PITTSBURGH (AP) —Sidney Crosby beat Andrei Vasilevskiy from the circle 40 seconds into overtime, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Monday night to leave the Eastern Conference finals tied at a game apiece.
Crosby, who hadn’t scored since the opening round against the New York Rangers, took a feed from Bryan Rust and buried it for his fourth goal of the postseason. Matt Cullen and Phil Kessel also scored for the Penguins.
Matt Murray overcame a shaky start to finish with 19 saves as Pittsburgh improved to 3-1 in overtime during the playoffs.
“They generated a lot and he still made some great saves, kept us in it,” Crosby said.
Anton Stralman scored in his return to the lineup from a fractured left leg and Jonathan Drouin picked up his second goal in as many games, but the Lightning lost for just the third time in 12 postseason games when Vasilevskiy couldn’t handle Crosby’s wrist shot. Vasilevskiy played brilliantly at times while filling in for injured starter Ben Bishop, making 38 stops.
Game 3 is Wednesday night in Tampa.
The Penguins pointed to an inability to generate quality chances from in close as a major problem in Game 1. In danger of falling behind by two games for the first time in the postseason, Pittsburgh wasted little time trying to make Vasilevskiy uncomfortable, scoring a pair of early goals on scrambles from in front.
Cullen pounded home a rebound 4:32 in for the 39-year-old’s fourth goal of the playoffs. Just over five minutes later Kessel darted in from the point and zipped one by Vasilevskiy to give the Penguins control before the first period was halfway complete.
In the span of three minutes, Pittsburgh’s momentum vanished. Stralman collected a pretty cross-ice feed from Jonathan Marchessault and lifted the puck over Murray’s outstretched glove to cut the lead in half with 3:23 to go and Drouin’s knuckler from the right circle tied it with 70 seconds remaining.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper predicted the opener, which included a pair of illegal hits that ended with Penguins defensemen Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin woozily making their way off the ice, may end up being the “tamest” of the series. Yet the fireworks never really developed, though Callahan’s absence may have had something to do with that.
Callahan’s elbow to the back of Letang’s neck that sent Letang head-first into boards set a surprisingly chippy tone for two teams that have little playoff history. Callahan’s chop drew a five-minute major but no further discipline from the league, though Callahan found himself out of the lineup anyway after falling ill before the game.
Save for the usual heightened postseason pushing and shoving, both teams kept to themselves.
Still, Stralman’s return gave the Lightning a boost at the blue line. Making his first appearance since March 25, the smooth skating defenseman was on the ice during Cullen’s score but picked up his fifth career playoff goal when he roofed it by Murray.
The Penguins rookie has been steady since taking over in Game 3 in the opening round against New York, keeping starter Marc-Andre Fleury in a baseball cap on the bench. Coach Mike Sullivan opted to stick with Murray in the Penguins’ most important game of the year, but for long stretches he was outplayed by his fellow backup turned impromptu No. 1 at the other end of the ice.
Making just his second career playoff start with Vezina Trophy finalist Bishop out indefinitely with a left leg injury, Vasilevskiy — who is two months younger than Murray — gathered himself after Pittsburgh’s early barrage and came up with one of the great stops of the postseason when he slid across the crease to glove a backhand attempt by Crosby in the second period, extending his mitt to snatch the puck out of mid-air just short of the goal line. Vasilevskiy borrowed defenseman Brian Boyle’s stick to make a stop in the third after briefly losing his paddle in the chaos as the Penguins pushed for the winner.
NOTES: The Lightning were 0 for 1 on the power play. Pittsburgh was 0 for 2. … The Penguins scratched struggling defenseman Olli Maatta and replaced him with Justin Schultz. … Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos skated in a regular jersey with his teammates on Monday morning but remains out while dealing with a blood clot.