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Kunitz overtime goal gives Penguins 2-1 series lead

| Sunday, May 5, 2013, 3:18 p.m.
The Penguins' Chris Kunitz (14) celebrates his goal with teammates Kris Letang (58) and Evgeni Malkin (71) while the Islanders' Andrew MacDonald (right) reacts during overtime Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
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Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov lies on the ice after giving up the game-winning goal to the Penguins' Chris Kunitz on Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
Reuters
Penguins forward Chris Kunitz (14) celebrates his overtime goal with teammates Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (71) against the Islanders on Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
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The Penguins’ Chris Kunitz scores a goal against the Islanders’ Evgeni Nabokov during the first period Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
The Penguins' Jarome Iginla (left) scores past Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov during the first period Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby (left) passes past the slanders' Lubomir Visnovsky during the first period Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
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The Islanders' John Tavares (91) checks the Penguins' Sidney Crosby on Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
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The Penguins' Matt Niskanen (2) and the Islanders' David Ullstrom (41) collide during the second period Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
The Penguins' Douglas Murray (right) checks the Islanders' John Tavares who tries to get off a shot during the second period Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
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The Islanders' Brad Boyes (24) hits the Penguins' Kris Letang on Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
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The Islanders' Kyle Okposo ends up under the Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury on Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
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The Penguins' Matt Cooke argues a call in a game against the Islanders on Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
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The Penguins' Chris Kunitz scores the game-winning goal against the Islanders on Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
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The Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) moves the puck around the Islanders' Brian Strait (37) on Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
Reuters
The Penguins' Jarome Iginla (12) scores a goal on Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov during the first period Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
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The Penguins' Sidney Crosby moves around the Islanders' Michael Grabner on Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
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The Islanders' Michael Grabner (40) hits the Penguins' Paul Martin (7) during the first period Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
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The Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) heads out for warmups prior to the game against the Islanders on Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
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The Islanders' Travis Hamonic (3) gets tangled with the Penguins' Sidney Crosby on Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury defends the goal during the overtime against the Islanders on Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Marc-Andre Fleury did not want to go there.

The Penguins had won Game 3 of a first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the New York Islanders on left winger Chris Kunitz's overtime goal Sunday afternoon.

They had taken a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

They had avoided any reason to feel pressure heading into Game 4 on Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum.

“We didn't (lose), and they didn't (win),” Fleury said. “So let's not go there.”

There, of course, is recent history that hovers over the Penguins — specifically a nucleus that includes captain Sidney Crosby, his fellow former MVP/scoring champion center Evgeni Malkin, coach Dan Bylsma, general manager Ray Shero and Fleury, the franchise goalie.

Those men had the Penguins favored to reach the Stanley Cup final last year, too. Blown leads and poor play led to a 3-0 hole in a series that the Philadelphia Flyers ultimately won in six games.

Those men had the Penguins as the defending champions in 2010. Then uncharacteristic gaffes helped the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens turn a 3-2 series deficit into a seven-game dethroning.

Another seven-game loss, to Tampa Bay in a series that Crosby and Malkin missed, was wedged between the disappointing defeats to Montreal and Philadelphia.

“We can't expect certain things to go away,” defenseman Paul Martin said.

The Penguins, favored since the NHL lockout ended in January to reclaim the Cup they won in 2009, can expect extreme scrutiny of every win and loss this postseason.

“For sure, and partly that's from everyone else,” Martin added. “It's, ‘Look at who the Penguins picked up (before the NHL trade deadline), look at how good they are.' Obviously, we have a lot of good players, and we put up a lot of wins during the regular season, but that doesn't mean anything.”

Having Crosby and Malkin healthy — relatively, as Crosby is recovering from a broken jaw and Malkin is dealing with a sore left shoulder — doesn't mean anything.

Having dressed for Game 3 nine players who also were dressed for that victorious Game 7 of the Cup Final at Detroit four years ago doesn't mean anything.

Having wingers Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow, each a former team captain who waived a no-trade clause in his contract to join the Penguins, doesn't mean anything.

Also something that meant nothing Sunday: Protecting a lead.

The Islanders were ahead, 2-0, before Iginla (5 on 3) and Kunitz pulled the Penguins even with power-play goals, and right winger Pascal Dupuis' third of the playoffs staked his club a lead late in the first period.

Malkin then found defenseman Douglas Murray, whose first goal in 35 playoff games pushed the Penguins to a 4-2 lead that they carried into the final period.

Two of the Islanders' most skilled forwards, right winger Kyle Okposo and center John Tavares, erased that deficit in a span of about five minutes late in regulation.

Okposo's shorthanded goal stands as the only blemish of the series for a Penguins power play that has gone 6 for 13 (46.2 percent).

Actually, the Islanders probably can find comfort in knowing that they are outscoring the Penguins at 5-on-5 play over the past two games, 6-4.

“We're up (in the series), 2-1, yes, but at the same time, the power play has saved us,” Dupuis said.

So, too, has this history that hovers, Fleury said.

Champions are not preordained. Playoff wins — a game, let alone a series — are not easily obtained.

The Penguins are not perfect.

They are, however, two wins closer to their stated goal of four playoff victories.

“It's big,” Fleury said. “It's a win. That's what matters.

“We have guys who have experiences, a lot of guys who have been through a lot. That's what pays off for us in these playoffs.”

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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