NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have trailed 3-1 in a Stanley Cup Playoff series 16 times prior to this year's Eastern Conference Second Round. They have never come back to win the series.
Maybe the 17th time will be the charm.
The Rangers forced a Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 3-1 victory Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Henrik Lundqvist made 36 saves and Martin St. Louis, Carl Hagelin and Derick Brassard provided the goals.
After losing Games 2, 3 and 4 by a combined 9-2, the Rangers have kept their season going with back-to-back victories by outscoring the Penguins 8-2 in Games 5 and 6.
Game 7 is Tuesday at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), where the Rangers have won two of three games in this series after winning one of two during the regular season.
"We wanted to give ourselves a chance, and we did that," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We have a Game 7."
This is the sixth time in their past nine series the Rangers have gone to Game 7; they have won the past four.
The Rangers had once before forced a Game 7 after falling behind 3-1 in a series. That was in 1939, when they lost to the Boston Bruins in triple overtime.
"We knew if we played our best game, if we play the way we normally play, we're going to have a chance to come back and win the series," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "We started that in Game 5, then in Game 6, and now we're in Game 7."
They didn't look like a team that would have a chance at coming back in this series after Game 4, when they played their worst game of the postseason. They had 15 shots on goal and lost 4-2 in a listless effort at MSG.
However, the Rangers have since been aggressive in setting the pace and playing with high energy. They set the tone early with two goals in Game 5, and did it again, only earlier, in Game 6.
St. Louis, playing on Mother's Day four days after his 63-year-old mother, France, passed away because of a heart attack, gave New York a 1-0 lead 3:34 into the game. Center Derek Stepan's rebound attempt went off St. Louis' leg and past Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
St. Louis kept the puck and said he was going to give it to his father, Normand. He flew his dad and sister, Isabelle, in from Montreal so they could attend Game 6.
"Mother's Day, my dad's here, my sister's here, it's been a tough time for my whole family," St. Louis said. "To be able to get the lead in the first period, it was a good one."
Hagelin made it 2-0 less than three minutes later when he beat Fleury (26 saves) with a high backhand from the left circle at 6:25.
Penguins forward Brandon Sutter cut the deficit to 2-1 with 3:04 left in the first period, but Brassard scored his fourth goal of the playoffs, all against Pittsburgh, with 4:30 left in the second.
"We set the tone right away, and when Marty scores that goal, it was such a beautiful moment," Lundqvist said. "It really got emotional to watch that, and see him and what's he's been through. I think the entire team was feeding on that moment, and the entire building."
Stepan said being on the ice for St. Louis' goal was "one of the cooler things I've been a part of in my professional career."
"I don't have the slightest idea what he's been feeling the last few days, but I can imagine that felt pretty good," Staal said. "We were obviously happy for him. It was a great night."
The Penguins tried to rally back and came close, until Brassard scored.
They turned the momentum in the game shortly after Fleury stoned Rangers forward Chris Kreider at 10:33 of the first period. Kreider was sent in by St. Louis for a mini-breakaway, but Fleury made a pad save on his backhanded shot.
Pittsburgh outshot the Rangers 13-3 over the final 9:27 of the first period after getting outshot 11-2 in the first 10:33. The Penguins sliced the deficit in half when Sutter's wrist shot from the right point hit Rangers defensemen John Moore and Kevin Klein before going into the net.
Pittsburgh had a 16-5 edge in shot attempts to close the first period after Fleury's save on Kreider.
"Once we got down we really saw how hard we can push," Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "We were really trying to be aggressive. We were pressuring them all over the ice and we got zone time and some chances because of it, and a couple of power plays. We will try to do more of that [in Game 7]."
The key is not to get down early. The team that has scored the first goal in the series is 6-0.
"They outplayed us in the first 10 minutes and it cost us," Penguins forward Craig Adams said.
What is perhaps more concerning, or at least alarming, for the Penguins is how the Rangers have bottled up and frustrated Sidney Crosby. The Penguins captain had one shot on goal and four attempts at the net in Game 6. He still has one goal this postseason.
Crosby appeared to let some of his frustration out late in the second period, when he lifted his stick as it was caught between Rangers center Dominic Moore's legs. That started a scrum at the end of the period that led to a Rangers' power play to start the third.
New York didn't convert on the power play and were 0-for-6 in the game after scoring twice on three chances in Game 5, an effort which snapped a 0-for-36 stretch.
However, the Penguins again failed to hurt the Rangers' with their power play; they went 0-for-4 and are 1-for-19 in the series.
"The chances they did get I thought for the most part weren't Grade-A opportunities, especially their top guys," Staal said. "That was big. You start blanking their top guys, they get frustrated. When it's not going well for them that means we're doing our job."
The Rangers will have at least one more chance to do their job this season. They might be able to make some team history too.
|Martin St. Louis (3) ASST: Derek Stepan (3), Anton Stralman (5)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Carl Hagelin (4) ASST: NONE|
2 - 0 NYR
|Brandon Sutter (5) ASST: Matt Niskanen (7), Olli Maatta (3)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Derick Brassard (4) ASST: Benoit Pouliot (5), Kevin Klein (2)|
3 - 1 NYR
|Jussi Jokinen Roughing against Chris Kreider|
|Chris Kreider Roughing against Jussi Jokinen|
|Beau Bennett Too many men on the ice|
|Chris Kreider Interference - Goalkeeper against Marc-Andre Fleury|
|Beau Bennett Interference against Martin St. Louis|
|Mats Zuccarello Tripping against Rob Scuderi|
|Brian Boyle Cross checking against Sidney Crosby|
|Sidney Crosby Cross checking against Marc Staal|
|Chris Kunitz Roughing against Dominic Moore|
|James Neal Tripping against Dominic Moore|
|Mats Zuccarello Hooking against Kris Letang|
|Beau Bennett Hi-sticking against Derick Brassard|
|James Neal Misconduct against Henrik Lundqvist|
|Kris Letang Roughing against Kevin Klein|
|Kevin Klein Slashing against Kris Letang|