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Rangers leaning past Game 7 experiences

by Dave Lozo /
NEW YORK -- Brad Richards not only knows what it means to play in a Game 7, but he has plenty of experience in what it takes to win one.

As a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, his club came away with wins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final, and Richards captured a Conn Smythe Trophy along the way. Along with Marian Gaborik, Ruslan Fedotenko and Mike Rupp, Richards is one of four current Rangers to win a Game 7.

That experience will be valuable with the Rangers facing the Ottawa Senators on Thursday in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"That's part of the process, is not losing your cool and channeling everything and using the energy in a positive way," Richards said. "I don't know how it will all work out, but everybody individually has to remember to do that and treat it more as an opportunity and fun and not think of any of the pressure or anything like that. There's pressure on both teams. It's Game 7. We both want to go on. We just want to have fun and enjoy it. It's a great time to be a hockey player when you get to play in a Game 7."

Several Rangers were part of the 2009 club that lost Game 7 to the Washington Capitals in the conference quarterfinals. The seventh-seeded Rangers held a 3-1 lead in that series before losing three straight to the second-seeded Caps.

This time around, the confidence level is different. The top-seeded Rangers are coming off a 3-2 road win in Game 6 and feel a lot better about their chances entering this Game 7.

"There's a little more positive energy in the group here winning the last game under pressure and going into this game compared to last time, when we let it slip," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "Once you're out there you're going to have the same feeling and approach it the same way, but right now I think the feeling is a little different, yeah, having won the last game under pressure."

Coach John Tortorella believes home-ice advantage is meaningless except for when it's a Game 7. He wouldn't delve into details, but said, "I just feel that we are at an advantage coming into our building for a Game 7."

The Senators probably feel differently. They went 2-0-0 at Madison Square Garden in the regular season and took two of three at MSG during this series. But the Rangers, who went 27-12-2 at home this season, believe all that goes out the window in a Game 7.

"We're in our comfort zone," Richards said. "I'd rather be here than anywhere else because it's comfortable. It doesn’t always mean you're going to win. It's still your building you've played in all year in front of your fans."

The Rangers are a young team with many of its players getting their first taste of a Game 7. Lundqvist said having the home-ice advantage -- and someone like Richards -- on which to lean can make a difference.

"I think it calms down a lot of guys to have been part of things like before," Lundqvist said. "They know what it takes. All year he has stepped up at critical moments and it just shows what kind of player he really is. Hopefully he can keep doing it here."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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