AP Sports Writer
UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) -- Leads aren't safe in the wild first-round playoff matchup between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh. Suddenly, neither are the top-seeded Penguins.
Through four games of the best-of-seven series, both teams have two wins. The latest big momentum shift has swung sharply in the direction of the No. 8 Islanders.
John Tavares scored with 9:49 left, and the Islanders beat the Penguins 6-4 Tuesday night to get even in the series that will resume with Game 5 in Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
"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."
Or end one.
The Penguins were ousted in the first round in each of the previous two years. They now face the prospect of another early summer if they can't turn things around quickly.
"We've got a lot of veteran guys in this room that have been through this," Penguins forward James Neal said. "We just need to regroup here. We'll come out ready to go and fired up in our own building.
"We knew what we were up against. Once you get into playoffs, seeds and where you finished is out the door."
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. This highly entertaining series has already featured 5-4 and 6-4 finishes at Nassau Coliseum.
"This was intense and fun," said Islanders captain Mark Streit, who had two goals. "We got big chances and scored big goals. Now we have a best two of three."
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.
"Not sure what it was but we have had contributions offensively and defensively from everyone in our lineup. That makes us better," Tavares said.
Brian Strait and Kyle Okposo also had goals. Evgeni Nabokov made 27 saves for the Islanders.
"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."
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 whether Fleury would be back in the net for Game 5.
Last year, Fleury allowed 26 goals in a six-game loss to Philadelphia. He sat with his head in his hands in the crowded Penguins dressing room after the latest loss.
"When you lose hockey games, you've got to look for answers and reasons why," Bylsma said. "We had swings in this game and some unfortunate bounces and some bad goals, but at the end of the day we let in six goals and that is way too many."
If a change is made, veteran Tomas Vokoun is ready to step in.
"He has had success and won hockey games against this team and has been successful this year," Bylsma said. "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 Tuesday night 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 center of the blue line hit the skate of Penguins defenseman Douglas Murray and found its way in.
A second-period goal originally credited to Streit was changed to Tavares, then back to Streit.