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Game 1: Penguins edge Rangers on disputed interference call

| Saturday, April 26, 2008

They trailed by three goals less than four minutes into the second period.

Their incensed coach was screaming at anybody within sight.

The white-clad sellout crowd that has come to worship them had been stunned into silence.

And the Penguins were laughing.

"We were kind of joking around," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "We were talking about a game last week that we watched in Ottawa, the one that Calgary came back to win after San Jose took a 3-0 lead.

"We were saying, 'Ah, the 3-0 lead is the worst lead in hockey.' We were kind of chuckling about it."

To borrow one of legendary broadcaster Mike Lange's catchphrases: The Penguins were smiling like a butcher's dog Friday night after center Evgeni Malkin deflected a point-shot from captain Sidney Crosby past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist with 1:41 remaining in regulation for a 5-4 victory against the New York Rangers at Mellon Arena.

"I was staying in the crease area with no energy at all," Malkin said. "Practices were tough this week."

Malkin's third goal of the playoffs came on a power play -- the Penguins' fifth, and it did not please Rangers coach Tom Renney.

New York forward Martin Straka was penalized for interference at 16:40 after colliding with Crosby in the neutral zone on an up-ice rush with right wing Marian Hossa.

"What did I think of the call on (Straka)?" Renney said before pausing deliberately. "Draw your own conclusions."

Well, there is this undeniable one: The Penguins lead a best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series, 1-0, with Game 2 Sunday at Mellon Arena.

Renney first raised the issue of Crosby embellishing to draw calls Thursday. His players brought up that point again last night.

"Crosby embellished," right wing Brendan Shanahan said.

"I was kind of expecting something like that," captain Jaromir Jagr said.

"I just saw him, and he was diving, and that was it," said Straka, who was assessed a game misconduct after time expired.

Crosby's take on the controversial sequence: "I just saw (Hossa) block a shot. I just tried to basically catch up to him, and I just ended up falling. I don't know what I tripped over -- whether it was (Straka's) stick or skate. I think he was just trying to get back and get position on me."

The Penguins were in poor position after left wing Sean Avery's fourth playoff goal staked the Rangers to a 3-0 lead at 3:37 of the second period.

Avery is to the Rangers what left wing Jarkko Ruutu is to the Penguins - a proven pest, to be sure, but one who is scoring key goals in the playoffs.

Ruutu's second in as many games pulled the Penguins to within 3-1 at 8:13.

Left wing Pascal Dupuis's first goal of the postseason came only 14 seconds later.

Hossa tied the score, 3-3, with his second playoff tally at 4:40 of the third period. Right wing Petr Sykora pushed the Penguins ahead only 20 seconds after Hossa's goal.

Sykora has scored four goals in five playoff games.

New York center Scott Gomez tallied his fourth playoff goal off a pass from Jagr, who recorded two assists, at 10:04.

But, really, that flurry of scoring -- five goals in a game-time span of about 22 minutes -- will be less remembered than Crosby's alleged dive and the power-play goal it set up to cost the Rangers.

Orpik suggested Game 2 will look a lot different than an exciting series opener.

"There were a lot of momentum swings," Orpik said. "It was an enthusiastic win. But we realize it was not our best performance, and (the Rangers) are probably saying the same thing.

"I think you can count on the rest of the series being a lot tighter."

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