Straka was stopped by Dominik Hasek on a penalty shot with 11:53 remaining and the Penguins coughed up three third-period goals as well as home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 5-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres in Game Four.
Pittsburgh trailed, 3-2, when Straka was taken down on a partial breakaway by defenseman Jason Woolley. After missing two of three penalty shots during the season, Straka went to his backhand but could not lift the puck over his former Czech Republic Olympic teammate, who stacked his pads while protecting the right goalpost.
"He didn't leave much," Straka said. "I tried to deke him, couldn't get it up, couldn't finish it off. ... Hasek came pretty far out. There was nothing low, I tried to get it over him."
"We made a mistake," said Hasek, who has stopped three of four penalty shots in the postseason. "We were up 3-2 and it was a very important score. It's my job to pick up my teammates. I know Martin a little bit, but I was lucky."
Former Penguin Stu Barnes scored twice in the third period for the Sabres, who recorded their second straight road victory to square the best-of-seven series at two wins apiece. Game Five is Saturday afternoon in Buffalo.
"I guess the home-ice advantage doesn't mean anything," said Sabres right wing Donald Audette. "Next game is going to be huge."
Last year, Pittsburgh opened the conference semifinals with a pair of road wins before losing four straight to the Philadelphia Flyers.
"Of course, we can get it back. This is a new game, new year, a different team," Penguins defenseman Darius Kasparaitis said. "We have to figure out what they did. We don't want to repeat the Philly series."
Despite the return of Art Ross Trophy winner Jaromir Jagr, the Penguins never led and suffered their sixth loss in the last eight home playoff games.
"It's certainly disappointing, like last year was disappointing," said Pittsburgh center Mario Lemieux, who watched last year's series from the owner's box before embarking on his comeback. "You know you can pick it up, that you can make things happen."
Jagr sat out the previous two games with a variety of ailments, including a shoulder injury. He had an assist and one shot in just under 20 1/2 minutes on Wednesday.
Barnes, who played for Pittsburgh from 1996-99, broke the 2-2 deadlock 4:44 into the final period. Despite being tied up by Ian Moran and Alexei Morozov, Barnes got to the rebound of Audette's shot and flicked it off the left goalpost and past rookie goaltender Johan Hedberg.
After Hasek stopped Straka to preserve the lead, Vladimir Tsyplakov got an insurance tally at 14:24. Hedberg denied Vaclav Varada on a breakaway but sticked the rebound past defensemen Marc Bergevin and Andrew Ference, enabling Tsyplakov to get to it and score his first career playoff goal.
Barnes struck again on the power play with 1:51 remaining, putting a wrist shot from the high slot through traffic and past Hedberg, who had not more than four goals in his first nine postseason appearances.
"Sooner or later, they're going to get some breaks," Hedberg said. "It might be our turn to get some (Saturday)."
"As the game went on, we started to take the play to them," said Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff. "It was really a pretty even game throughout the first two periods."
Buffalo scored first for the first time in the series, grabbing the lead 88 seconds into the game on J.P. Dumont's third playoff goal.
Pittsburgh tied it on Straka's power-play one-timer at 11:10, but Curtis Brown put the Sabres back in front with a shorthanded goal at 19:13. With Sabres defenseman Alexei Zhitnik in the penalty box for holding, Brown intercepted Alexei Kovalev's cross-ice pass in his own zone and broke in 2-on-1 with Miroslav Satan.
Brown gave up the puck but got a late return feed from Satan and banged it inside the right goalpost for his second goal in as many games.
The Penguins tied it again 5:24 into the second period as defenseman Janne Laukkanen's wrister from the left point beat Hasek, who was screened by Lemieux and Zhitnik.
"Buffalo in the last two games has been generating a lot of offense," Lemieux said. "I think our guys have been concerned with some wrong things. A lot of our guys are tired. It's the grind of the playoffs."