Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71)

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71)

Islanders stun Penguins to even playoff series

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — John Tavares scored with 9:49 left, and the New York Islanders tied their first-round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night with a wild 6-4 victory. Only the final lead was safe in Game 4.

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — John Tavares scored with 9:49 left, and the New York Islanders tied their first-round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night with a wild 6-4 victory.

Only the final lead was safe in Game 4.

Tavares slammed in his own rebound in front after Brad Boyes fed him following a turnover by Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

It was the Islanders’ third one-goal advantage in the game and the one that earned them a 2-2 tie in the highly entertaining series that has featured 5-4 and 6-4 finishes at Nassau Coliseum.

Tavares was serenaded with cheers of “M-V-P” from the frantic crowd that is believing an upset is possible. Casey Cizikas shoved in a shot with 1:16 left to add some much-needed insurance.

“We found a way today. Another roller coaster ride,” Tavares said.

“We learned from those games when we gave up leads — a lot of us said that one bounce can change a season.

“Not sure what it was but we have had contributions offensively and defensively from everyone in our lineup. That makes us better.”

Captain Mark Streit scored twice, and Brian Strait and Kyle Okposo also had goals. Evgeni Nabokov made 27 saves for the eighth-seeded Islanders, who know they will last at least six games with the top-seeded Penguins.

“You get into the playoffs, you put in so much effort to get here, we want to make the most of it,” Tavares said.

“We believe in this room. We have a lot of character. That’s what we need.”

Game 5 is Thursday in Pittsburgh.

James Neal, in his return after injuring his ankle in the series opener, scored in the first period.

Malkin added a tying goal in the second, and Brandon Sutter and Pascal Dupuis provided the Penguins with a pair of one-goal leads they couldn’t protect.

“Momentum shifts so quickly,” Neal said. “Once you regain it you’ve got to keep it. You saw how energetic their crowd was and how much they fed off that. We just need to put this one behind us and get back to our game. I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet.”

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped only 18 shots during a difficult night. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was noncommittal as to whether Fleury would be back in the net for Game 5.

Veteran netminder Tomas Vokoun is ready and waiting should a change be made.

“He has had success and won hockey games against this team and has been successful this year,” Bylsma said of Vokoun.

“We’re going to regroup and come back and come out for Game 5 with a new focus.”

Pittsburgh beat New York 5-4 in overtime on Sunday in a game in which both teams squandered two-goal leads.

Dupuis gave the Penguins their second lead of the night just 41 seconds into the third period when he tipped in a shot from Chris Kunitz. It was Dupuis’ fourth goal of the series.

The Islanders responded again, just as Pittsburgh did in erasing a pair of one-goal deficits.

Streit netted the tying goal when his shot from the centre of the blue line hit the skate of Penguins defenceman Douglas Murray and found its way in.

A second-period goal originally credited to Streit was changed to Tavares, then back to Streit.

The game continued its back-and-forth trend in the second period with each team giving up a one-goal lead, leading to a 3-3 tie heading into the third.