NEW YORK -- New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh is hoping for a repeat of his last game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
McDonagh is arguably coming off his finest effort of this series Friday in a 5-1 victory in Game 5 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh when he scored his first postseason goal, blocked two shots and had three hits in a team-high 26:53 of ice time.
How was he able to do it?
"I was trying to use my legs a little more," McDonagh said. "Whether it's gap defensively or trying to keep pucks in offensively and get pucks to the net; I'm just trying to do the same out there."
The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 and would like nothing more than to extend the series with a Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The Penguins are 2-6 all-time in Game 7s on home ice.
McDonagh's first goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs came 8:48 into the second period with his team on the power-play. It was obviously a huge weight off his shoulders after he had 14 goals and 43 points in 77 regular-season games.
"We're just trying to move the quicker going North-South in the neutral zone and trying to catch their structure in the neutral zone," McDonagh said. "Obviously they like to create a lot of turnovers [at center ice] and go back on the other side. So, for us, we need to get it into the zone quicker. That helps us to get in on the forecheck much sooner."
That recipe worked to perfection in New York's seven-game series victory against the Philadelphia Flyers in their Eastern Conference First Round series. The Rangers generated 35 shots against Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 5, equaling their Game 3 total. The one difference this time was the finish. The Rangers scored five goals, their highest total in 12 playoff games.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault knows McDonagh will need to pick up where he left off in another big spot.
"If our intentions are to continue, which I know they are, our best players have to put their best game on the ice," Vigneault said. "I know Pittsburgh is going to do that [Sunday]. So we have to do the same thing. [McDonagh] is not hurt and he needs to play that way if we're going to continue."