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Five things Rangers must do to clinch in Game 6

by Dan Rosen

MONTREAL -- The New York Rangers spent Wednesday traveling home and digesting one of their worst performances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, all the while knowing they have another chance to accomplish something they haven't done in 20 years.

Technically the Rangers have two more chances to book a trip to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994, but they'll enter a Montreal minefield if they don't get it done Thursday at Madison Square Garden in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"It's a desperate time," Rangers center Brad Richards said. "You don't want to go back to a Game 7, where anything can happen."

In order to win the Prince of Wales Trophy on Thursday, and avoid a Game 7 against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, the Rangers will have to be much better than they were in Game 5 on Tuesday, a 7-4 loss.

Here are five things the Rangers will need in Game 6 to give themselves the best chance:

1. Be the King

Henrik Lundqvist didn't play like royalty in Game 5. In fact, he had a royally bad game by his lofty standards. He gave up four goals on 19 shots before being pulled in favor of Cam Talbot with 11:02 remaining in the second period.

"I was a little slow," Lundqvist said after the game.

Lundqvist, somewhat surprisingly, didn't ask to re-enter the game after the Rangers tied it 4-4 with 5:48 remaining in the second period by scoring three goals in a span 4:24.

Montreal regained its lead on Rene Bourque's goal just 58 seconds after Chris Kreider scored the game-tying goal, but the Rangers entered the third period down by one goal with their best player, the backbone of their team, on the bench and already thinking about Game 6.

Hopefully for the Rangers and Lundqvist, that added time to contemplate what went wrong Tuesday and start looking forward to Thursday proves to be beneficial.

Recent history suggests it will.

Lundqvist is 5-2 with a .930 save percentage (13 goals on 188 shots) in games after a loss this postseason. The only losing streak he has in the postseason came in the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, when he lost three in a row before going on a five-game winning streak.

"I would imagine we're going to see one of his better performances, especially going back to his crowd and wanting to rebound from that [Game 5]," Richards said. "It's not something we'll have to worry about. We always know he'll regroup."

2. Stay in control

Vigneault likes to say the Rangers play whistle-to-whistle. That's all well and good, but it doesn't matter if in between whistles you're committing undisciplined penalties to give the Canadiens power plays.

In Game 4 it was stick infractions, including three for high-sticking and one on Benoit Pouliot for holding P.K. Subban's stick 30 seconds into overtime. New York survived to win in overtime largely because it scored a shorthanded goal and killed seven of Montreal's eight power plays.

The Rangers didn't survive to win Game 5. They need to look in the mirror for reasons why.

"We lost our composure in all areas of the game," Richards said.

Kreider tripped Subban 22 seconds into the first period after racing across the zone. Montreal capitalized 1:26 later when Alex Galchenyuk scored a power-play goal to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead.

Worse yet, any ideas the Rangers might have had on a comeback from a 6-4 deficit were washed away at 10:41 of the third period when defenseman John Moore delivered an illegal check on Canadiens forward Dale Weise.

Moore received a match penalty, which meant he was kicked out of the game and the Canadiens had a five-minute power play. Moore was suspended two games Wednesday afternoon after a meeting with the NHL Department of Player Safety for an illegal check to the head.

Derek Dorsett wasn't penalized for a head butt of Canadiens defenseman Mike Weaver in front of the Montreal net with 34 seconds remaining or for initiating a scrum with Bourque at the buzzer.

It might have been a message-sending moment for Dorsett, but the Rangers need to get the message that undisciplined penalties and out-of-control plays will not get them to the Stanley Cup Final.

3. Forecheck and hound the puck

The Canadiens had time and space with the puck in the offensive zone. That's a recipe for disaster for the Rangers, who pride themselves on a being a strong forechecking team that doesn't give up time and space to the opposition.

The Rangers need to do a better job on the forecheck in Game 6 than they did in Game 5. That is to say they need to forecheck, because it was non-existent in Game 5 as the Canadiens had several clean exits out of their zone and through the neutral zone.

"It wasn't anything adjustment-wise they were doing; it was more just us, a lot of times during the game not being on the same page and not doing the same things over and over that you're used to doing," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "We just have to get back to the way we know how to play. For a large portion of that game [Tuesday] night, it wasn't the way we were playing, so we get an opportunity to change that."

The Rangers need to do a better job stopping the rush when the Canadiens are motoring into the zone. And they absolutely must do a better job pressuring the puck when they are in the defensive zone.

Bourque's second and third goals were scored off nice passing plays that wouldn't have been made had the Rangers stepped up and stopped the rush.

Max Pacioretty's goal, albeit off a brilliant pass by Brendan Gallagher, wouldn't have happened had the Rangers controlled the puck after their attempts to keep it in the zone while forechecking. It wouldn't have happened had they picked up Pacioretty on the right side before Gallagher's pass.

Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein's head was turned the wrong way as he was watching the puck instead of his man.

4. Cut off the slot area

In addition to giving Montreal too much time and space to play with the puck in the offensive zone, the Rangers did not close off the slot well enough to prevent Grade-A scoring chances.

"I have to give credit to the Canadiens, they challenged us in that area by making good plays," Vigneault said, answering a question in French. "A lot of them were 1-on-1 situations where up until now, because of having our sticks in the right areas, we were able to take those opportunities away. We couldn't do it, so we have to give credit to the Canadiens."

Galchenyuk scored his goal, albeit on the power play, because he was alone in the slot for a deflection of Subban's blast from the point. The Rangers can't leave a man alone in the slot even if they're one man short on the ice.

Bourque scored his first goal of the game, which gave Montreal a 4-1 lead, because he was alone in the slot once he got the puck from Weise.

Granted, the Rangers had just finished killing a penalty and Mats Zuccarello was racing back into the play from the penalty box, but none of other four Rangers players on the ice picked up Bourque.

Bourque's third goal, which gave Montreal a 6-4 lead, was a result of Weise carrying the puck into the slot and threading a pass to Bourque, who got behind everyone in white sweaters.

"We weren't as good as we could be," Vigneault said. "We know that. We're going to address that once we land in New York [Wednesday], and then we're going to get ready for [Game 6]."

5. Find a sense of desperation

This is all about the mental aspect of the game. Finding a sense of desperation can be difficult when you know you still have one more mulligan in a playoff series.

"You've got to try to create it the best you can," Richards said of the desperation needed to close a series.

All the clichés about a team facing elimination -- backs against the wall, come out hungry, etc. -- held true in Game 5 from the Canadiens' perspective.

They played desperate. They came out hungry. They did not panic. They did not lose their composure. They played like any team would play with its season on the line. And they lived to see another day.

The Rangers have to find that level of desperation in Game 6 even though technically their season is not on the line.

They shouldn't have to stretch their minds to find motivation.

Not only does a win put them in the Stanley Cup Final, but the thought of possibly going into the deafening den that is Bell Centre for a Game 7 on Saturday should scare the Rangers enough for them to play like their backs are against the wall.

"The opportunity in front of us should create all the desperation that we need," Richards said.


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