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Five keys for Rangers, Penguins Game 5

New York needs gritty effort; special teams can lift Pittsburgh

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- The Pittsburgh Penguins can eliminate the New York Rangers with a win in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Consol Energy Center on Saturday (3 p.m. ET: NBC, SN360, TVA Sports). The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 3-1. 

This is the third straight season the Rangers have faced a 3-1 deficit in a Stanley Cup Playoff series. They rallied to win the past two, including in 2014 against the Penguins when they faced a 3-1 deficit going into Pittsburgh for Game 5 in the second round.

Here are five keys for Game 5:

1. Find the will again: The Rangers have a history of being at their best when facing elimination. They are 15-4 in elimination games since 2012. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been in net for all of those games with a 1.50 goals-against average and .953 save percentage.

Lundqvist and the Rangers have to find that will to win again, because they didn't have enough of it in Games 3 and 4 at Madison Square Garden. They were outscored 8-1, including 5-0 in Game 4, when Lundqvist was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 18 shots.

"It's important that we get our players to have a short memory, turn the page on [Thursday] and focus on what's in front of us, and what's in front of us is a must game," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "They all know they can play better than they've played so far and our intentions are to play a good game [Saturday] so we need them to come up with a solid effort, solid execution. Let's go out and play hard."

Video: PIT@NYR, Gm4: Malkin blasts PPG by Lundqvist

2. Stay special: The Penguins have dominated the special-teams battle in the series, a big reason why they are leading 3-1. Do it again and it'll be a big reason why they win the series in five games.

Pittsburgh's power play is 7-for-19, including 6-for-14 in the past three games. The Penguins penalty kill is 15-for-16 and has killed off 11 straight power plays. The only goal the Penguins have allowed on the penalty kill was a 5-on-3 goal in Game 1.

The Penguins have been crisp with their passing and opportunistic with their looks on the power play. They have played the Rangers tight on the penalty kill and the pressure has disabled New York's power play.

3. Lundqvist has to be better: The Rangers have no chance when Lundqvist struggles the way he did in the first period Thursday. He allowed three goals on 13 shots, the first of which came directly off of a rebound he fumbled 69 seconds into the game.

Lundqvist called his play "bad" after the game. He appropriately took the blame. He was ready to move on from it on Friday, a good sign for the Rangers considering how well he typically plays in these must-win situations.

"It was a long night," Lundqvist said. "It was a morning where you reflect a little bit, where we are. There's just one answer here and that's we've got to leave everything we've got [Saturday]. It's the biggest game of the year. The season is on the line."

Video: PIT@NYR, Gm4: Sheary swipes puck, rips goal

4. Look at that Sheary go: The Rangers can't make Penguins rookie forward Conor Sheary a focal point of their game plan because of, well, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist and Phil Kessel and Kris Letang. Sheary, though, is proving to be a threat that they need to contain before he burns them again.

Sheary scored in Game 4 on a breakaway he created for himself by forcing a turnover in the defensive zone. He was a key player in Pittsburgh's Game 1 win, when he had an assist on Hornqvist's goal that made it 1-0 at 19:42 of the first period and was on the ice for Crosby's goal that made it 2-0 at 18:56 of the second.

He has only the two points in the series, but he's made some key blocks, used his speed to create problems and has played on three of the Penguins' four lines without losing himself at all.

"He has just gotten better and better and used to the pace," Crosby said. "He's created a lot."

5. Kreid time: It was interesting to hear Vigneault on Friday talking about the chaos Hornqvist creates on the power play with his net-front presence because he brought up Rangers forward Chris Kreider as someone who also has "elite" net-front skills on the power play.

The issue, as Vigneault mentioned, is Kreider doesn't always show it.

"[Hornqvist] is an elite player at doing that, just like Chris Kreider when Kreids decides that he's a force and he wants to stay there," Vigneault said. "It makes it very hard on the opposition."

Whether it's on the power play or at 5-on-5, the Rangers will need that from Kreider in Game 5. No Rangers forward can frustrate an opposing goalie better than Kreider.

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