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Rangers home in on eliminating Canadiens in Game 6

New York drawing on past success of finishing off opponents at Madison Square Garden

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- For as mediocre as their record was at Madison Square Garden this season and despite recent struggles in Stanley Cup Playoff games at home, the New York Rangers have a history of success when they have a chance to eliminate an opponent on home ice.

The Rangers have won seven of their past nine games in that situation since 2007, including a 6-1 record since 2012. Henrik Lundqvist has been in goal for all nine and will be again in Game 6 against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 3-2.

"Any time you've been through something, you bring that knowledge with you to the next opportunity," said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, whose team went 20-16-4 at home this season, including 2-6-3 since Feb. 19. They also had lost six straight playoff games there prior to winning Game 4 on Tuesday. "And we've got an opportunity here tonight against a real strong opponent. It's going to take our very best game."

 

[RELATED: Complete Rangers vs. Canadiens series coverage]

 

Lundqvist and defenseman Dan Girardi have played in all nine games when the Rangers had a chance to eliminate an opponent at home since 2007. Lundqvist is 7-2 with a 1.56 goals-against average and .942 save percentage. In the seven games since 2012, Lundqvist has a 0.96 GAA and .964 save percentage.

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm5: Zibanejad buries shot for OT win

Defenseman Marc Staal has played in the past eight games, the first a Game 7 loss against the Washington Capitals in the 2009 conference quarterfinals. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh, center Derek Stepan and forward Chris Kreider have played the seven games since 2012, and forward Rick Nash has played in all five since 2013.

The Rangers were 6-for-6 in closeout games at the Garden from the first round in 2012 to the second round in 2015, including Game 6 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Final against the Canadiens.

"Good for the psyche," Stepan said.

The winning streak ended with a 2-0 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Final.

Stepan said the experience the Rangers gained in those games can help, but it's still up to this current group to finish off Montreal.

"I think there is some experience you can draw from, but for the most part, and we've been talking about it all the time, the experience can only carry you so far," Stepan said. "It's about this moment now, what's the most important thing for our group going into Game 6. The past only can get you so much, so right now we're focusing in on what we can do now to give us our best chance to have success."

Knowing they've been successful in this situation can provide an added boost of confidence, which might be necessary considering what has happened to the Rangers at home in the past two months.

"It's the past," Lundqvist said. "You try to stay in the moment. That's really what it's all about. Stay in the moment and focus on the things that have helped you so far."

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm5: Lundqvist shrugs off Shaw's wrister

For the Rangers in this series, it's their speed game, getting the puck, moving it quickly out of the zone, going fast through the middle of the ice, getting an opportunity off the rush or putting the puck in deep, away from Montreal goalie Carey Price, so they can forecheck, get it back and go to work.

They did that in Game 4 and evened the series at 2-2. They did all of that again after tying Game 5 late in the second period. The Rangers pushed in the third period and dominated overtime by outshooting the Canadiens 10-3, winning on center Mika Zibanejad's first goal of the series at 14:22.

"It's about doing that one more time," McDonagh said. "Your opponent is going to come hard, you know that, but at the same time we can control our play and I think that's the biggest thing, not try to think about what they're going to do and what kind of intensity they're going to have, just focus on bringing your top intensity level and finding a way to make sure you're on top of your game. If we get a lot of guys at that level, it gives us a good chance."

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