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Rangers focused on task at hand, not elimination

by Brian Compton

TAMPA -- The New York Rangers have been at their best over the past several years when their backs are against the wall.

That will be the case against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Tuesday at Amalie Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The Lightning lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 and can eliminate the Rangers with a win.

The Rangers have won each of the past six games which have either been Game 6 or Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Playoff series, dating to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Philadelphia Flyers last season. New York has allowed seven goals over those six games and are 8-1 in Game 6 or Game 7 since the start of the 2013 postseason.

"I just think our group, we just go out and play," Rangers center Derek Stepan said at the team's hotel on Monday. "We find a way to get it done. We don't really panic, we don't really find anything to get down on ourselves. We play confident; we stick to the keys that let us be successful during the year."

The Rangers will turn to goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, as they have so many times, to help them stave off elimination. Lundqvist, who made 20 saves in a 2-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

In his past six games in either Game 6 or Game 7, Lundqvist is 6-0 with a 1.13 goals-against average and a .965 save percentage. He has allowed seven goals on 199 shots.

The Rangers will need him at his best Tuesday.

"When we need him to close the door, he does that," defenseman Marc Staal said of Lundqvist. "There have been a lot of games where it's one shot or one chance that can be the difference in the game, and he's come up big for us in those moments when we need him. I expect nothing less (Tuesday) night."

New York rallied after being down 3-1 in a series for the second straight season when they eliminated the Washington Capitals in the second round. The Rangers will have to win Game 6 on the road to bring the series back home, as they did against Washington. Game 7 would be played at Madison Square Garden on Friday.

Coach Alain Vigneault said the Rangers' ability to rally when facing elimination is a testament to the willingness to stay on the task at hand, rather than worrying about the possibility of their season coming to an end.

"Our players' focus in the right areas, stay in the moment," Vigneault said. "We've obviously been in a few of these situations in the past, and I'm very confident that our group is going to enjoy the opportunity and enjoy the challenge, get ready for it, and come up with a good game."

After reaching the Stanley Cup Final last season, the Rangers followed it up by winning the Presidents' Trophy with 113 points. Rangers forward Carl Hagelin believes the hunger is there to find a way to win the next two games, and the past experience should be a factor Tuesday.

"I think it's the same feel," Hagelin said. "We have a good feel within the locker room, a lot of the same players since last year that have been through it before. So we look forward to the task (Tuesday), and we know what it takes."


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