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Momentum shift

Maple Leafs beat Penguins 3-2 in OT, even series

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Posted: Friday May 14, 1999 02:24 AM

  All smiles: Sergei Berezin celebrates with a big grin after his game-winning goal in overtime. AP

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs had every reason to feel nervous going into overtime, in a building where they already had lost and just one goal away from a potentially insurmountable 3-1 series deficit.

Now, it's the Pittsburgh Penguins who might be getting the jitters.

Sergei Berezin stuffed a rebound into an open net at 2:18 of overtime, giving the Maple Leafs a potentially momentum-shifting 3-2 victory over the Penguins on Thursday night.

The Penguins, in position to go two games up in the Eastern Conference semifinal series, couldn't hold a 1-0 lead and then lost because of a defensive glitch after tying the game on Brad Werenka's third-period goal.

Game 5 is Saturday night in Toronto, where two of the final three games will be played if the series goes seven games.

"That's a long way to come back and win a series," the Maple Leafs' Mats Sundin said of escaping the 3-1 deficit. "Now, 2-2 is a totally different scene."

Berezin nearly won it when his shot struck the goal post, only to get the game-winner a few seconds later. Defenseman Bobby Dollas failed to tie up Berezin in the corner, allowing Berezin to skate in unimpeded and push in the rebound of Garry Valk's shot.

"I went to the net and the puck was waiting for me. Even my son wouldn't miss that shot," Berezin said. "It's like a dream come true, the puck and an empty net."

Except for goaltender Tom Barrasso, who felt the sequence began rather inconsequentially.

"I thought it [Valk's shot] was a harmless shot from the point, but it deflected behind me into an open net," Barrasso said.

The Leafs outshot the Penguins 30-14, but most of Curtis Joseph's saves were big ones as Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead in the first and had most of the better scoring chances in the first 15 minutes of the second period.

"I thought we started out playing the way we wanted to, but we kind of fizzled after that," Barrasso said.

The Maple Leafs, one of the NHL's best teams at preserving third-period leads, couldn't do so for the second straight game. But overtime saved them again; they were 6-1-7 in OT during the season and 1-0 in their first-round series against Philadelphia.

"We were very confident going into the overtime," Valk said. "Teams that go far in the playoffs win close games and in overtime. We've been doing it all year. ... We've been opportunists all year, and I like our chances in close games.

Lonny Bohonos put them ahead 2-1 at 5:28 of the third. Bohonos, unexpectedly moved onto Leafs' star Mats Sundin's line for Game 2 after playing in only seven regular-season games, also assisted on Sundin's goal and now has five points in three playoff games.

But the Penguins, who rallied from three deficits to win 4-3 in Game 3 Tuesday, got the tying goal less than two minutes later. Werenka fought his way into the crease area to bat in a Martin Straka shot that deflected off Robert Lang's stick at 7:10.

Four Penguins defensemen have scored in the last two games, three of them -- Werenka, Dollas and Jiri Slegr -- who have no other goals.

The Penguins earlier took the initial lead for the first time since Game 1, something coach Kevin Constantine considered critical with two of his top four scorers out with injuries.

Alexei Kovalev, who has 11 points in 10 games, sprained a foot blocking a shot with three seconds to go in Game 3. German Titov sat out his second straight game with back spasms.

Constantine dismissed Toronto coach Pat Quinn's speculation that the Penguins seemed tired going into overtime.

"The guys we're missing are good players," he said. "But that's the nature of the playoffs. We were missing Jaromir Jagr [for four games] in the first round. So we don't really look for excuses."

But Sundin said, "We roll four lines out there and I think maybe they had a shorter bench. That may have been the difference. I think we were a little fresher at the end."

Playing on a reshuffled line that included center Lang for the first time,

Jagr took advantage of Sylvain Cote's turnover in the Maple Leafs' zone to score at 5:00 of the first.

The Penguins had several good chances in the second period. But Joseph's strong play allowed the Maple Leafs to tie it at 16:57 on Sundin's fourth goal of the playoffs and third in three games, a rebound of Bohonos' shot that deflected off Barrasso's stick about chest-high.

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