PITTSBURGH -- Jeff Zatkoff barely played for the Pittsburgh Penguins down the stretch, even when the games meant nothing. In a game that meant everything, he was better than anyone could have expected -- especially the New York Rangers.
Zatkoff stopped 35 shots in an unexpected and brilliant playoff debut, Patric Hornqvist frustrated New York at both ends of the ice while scoring three times and the Pittsburgh Penguins finally found a way to beat the Rangers in the postseason, winning 5-2 on Wednesday.
"There were more nerves building up to the game -- after the game started it was like any other game," said Zatkoff, who had played once, in a relief role, since Feb. 20. "That's the story for us lately, we've been resilient."
Hornqvist scored the game's first goal before the Rangers pulled star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist with an eye injury, set up Sidney Crosby for a breakaway goal in the second, and added two more goals in the third as the Penguins defeated the team that eliminated them the last two postseasons.
Pittsburgh was the NHL's hottest team down the stretch, winning 14 of 16, but that was with Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in net. Neither goaltender played, as Zatkoff, the No. 3 goalie, started when Fleury (concussion) couldn't go after taking part in the morning skate.
"I hadn't seen a lot of hockey lately, so I wanted to get into the game (early) and fortunately I was able to settle in," Zatkoff said. "I knew last night ... they sent me a text, so at least I had a night to prepare."
He was the only one who knew in advance, as Penguins coach Mike Sullivan intentionally declined to disclose his No. 3 goalie would start, saying he didn't want to give the Rangers any edge.
Once the game started, it was Zatkoff who didn't give the Rangers much of anything.
"He was our best player," Hornqvist said. "If they get it to 1-0, it's probably another game. Yeah, he was our best player."
Zatkoff shut out the Rangers on 22 shots over the first two periods as Pittsburgh led 2-0. He gave up a Derek Stepan goal on a 5-on-3 power play early in the third period, but quickly regrouped before rookie Tom Kuhnhackl scored short-handed during a four-minute Rangers power play.
The Penguins took advantage of a poorly executed Rangers line change as Nick Bonino fed Kuhnhackl across the crease for a wide-open shot. The Penguins, clearly faster than the teams that lost to New York the last two springs, had 11 short-handed goals during the season, second-most in the league.
"That was definitely a turning point in the game," said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who had no medical update on Lundqvist after the game. "I thought we were fighting back, (applying) good pressure ... but it ended up in the back of our net.
"We've got quite a few guys who need to play better than tonight, that's obvious."
Stepan scored twice -- getting his second slightly more than two minutes after Hornqvist scored his second -- on a power play, at 8:02 of the third. But Hornqvist later scored into an empty net, with Crosby picking up assists on Hornqvist's third-period goals.
Game 2 will be Saturday afternoon at Consol Energy Center, where the Rangers and Lundqvist had won four consecutive playoff games before losing Wednesday. The Penguins have taken the first two games of a playoff series that begins at home only once in their last nine tries.
Pittsburgh came out wearing the old-style black and gold jerseys they wore while winning the Stanley Cup in 1990 and 1991, and the game was a throwback to those days, too, as the Penguins scored in waves and had substantial goaltending.
"When the guys are scoring like that, four or five goals, we're going to win a lot of games," Zatkoff said.
The third playoff series in as many seasons between the longtime rivals was supposed to feature the two winningest goalies in this postseason. Fleury, though, wasn't in uniform and Lundqvist -- brilliant while winning seven of his last eight against Pittsburgh in the playoffs -- was gone after one period.
The Rangers, no doubt motivated at not having to face Fleury and his 53 career wins, got off to a strong start, outshooting Pittsburgh 12-3 early on. But Rangers defenseman Marc Staal's stick unintentionally struck Lundqvist in his right eye with 49 seconds left in the first period.
Lundqvist stayed in after being treated, only to have Hornqvist score 31 seconds after play resumed. Conor Sheary shot the puck off the goalie's right shoulder, and it deflected into the low slot to Hornqvist, who shot it between the goalie's pads.
"Any time he goes out like that, it's not a good time," Staal said of Lundqvist. "But I don't think it changed the way we played at all ... it's one of those things that happen in a playoff game, and you have to deal with it. ... (But) any time he goes out like that, it's not a good time."
Antti Raanta, who was 11-6-2 during the season to Zatkoff's 4-7-1, came on to allow Crosby's goal on a breakaway set up by Hornqvist's block of Dan Girardi's shot and subsequent up-ice pass. Raanta also allowed Kuhnhackl's first career goal and Hornqvist's second of the game. He made 16 saves.
"But it didn't change, no, not at all (without Lundqvist)," said Hornqvist, who had five previous playoff goals. "We just tried to get the puck to the goalies and create scrums."
NOTES: Penguins D Olli Mattaa returned after being out since March 24 due to a lower-body injury. ... Rangers rookie D Brady Skjei made his Stanley Cup playoffs debut -- he played in seven regular-season games -- in place of injured team captain Ryan McDonagh (broken hand, out since April 4). ... Despite winning playoff series against Pittsburgh in 2014 and 2015, the Rangers are 2-4 all-time against the Penguins in the postseason. ... The Rangers are the only NHL team to win at least one playoff series each of the past four seasons. ... The Rangers scratched McDonagh, D Dylan McIlrath, C Oscar Lindberg and F Marek Hrivik. The Penguins held out Fleury, Murray, D Derrick Pouliot, RW Bryan Rust, RW Beau Bennett and F Tom Sestito, as well as C Evgeny Malkin.