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Rangers miss chance to avoid another Game 7

by Mike G. Morreale

PHILADELPHIA -- The New York Rangers find themselves in the all-too-familiar situation of needing to win a Game 7 to clinch a series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Missed opportunities in the early going, a lifeless power play and an opposing goalie possessing ice water in his veins proved to be the demise of the Rangers on Tuesday in a 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference First Round series at Wells Fargo Center.

The loss sets the stage for a Game 7 showdown between the Metropolitan Division rivals at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN2, CSN-PH, MSG).

The Rangers say they'll be ready.

"It's the playoffs," defenseman Marc Staal said. "We're still a confident team. We've played well all series long so that's not going to be an issue. We'll be ready to go and we'll have our A game."

The Rangers threw everything they had at Flyers goalie Steve Mason in the first period, but he stopped all 13 of their shots on goal. Wayne Simmonds scored the lone goal of the first period and had two more in the second, when the Flyers built a 4-0 lead that persuaded Rangers coach Alain Vigneault to replace Lundqvist (19 saves) with backup Cam Talbot (five saves) for the third period.

Simmonds' hat trick was the first allowed by Lundqvist in a playoff game in his career.

"[Mason] had a really good period in the first and gave his team a chance to come out of there one goal ahead; he's a good goaltender," Vigneault said. "We have a good goaltender also and we'll be ready for [Wednesday]."

After the morning skate, the Rangers emphasized the importance of closing out the series -- but in the evening, they had no answer for Mason, who made 34 saves to earn the second playoff victory of his NHL career.

The Rangers didn't help themselves by generating a mere four shots while finishing 0-for-5 on the power play. They are 3-for-28 in the series and have gone 20 consecutive attempts without a goal.

"We had a good start, had some good looks but obviously didn't score," Vigneault said. "We need to execute. I've been saying that for a couple of games now, and we've got one more game that if we get a power play to prove that we can execute."

New York hasn't scored a power-play goal since the first period of Game 2. The Flyers were 2-for-3 on Tuesday and are 6-for-19 in the series.

"It's about execution and we just couldn't execute in a lot of different areas," forward Brad Richards said. "We did uncharacteristic stuff. Some nights, that stuff goes the wrong way and it snowballed on us. We came out ready, but it doesn't really matter anymore. We're going to a Game 7; win that and move on."

It won't be easy.

"Obviously there's pressure but it's almost like there is no pressure because you just have to play," Staal said. "You have to go out there and win a game. Winner moves on and loser goes home so we have to focus, get up in the morning and try to win a game."

The Rangers haven't won a series in fewer than seven games since a five-game, first-round ouster of the New Jersey Devils in 2008. Three of their past five series have gone seven games, and another went six.

The last time the Rangers held a 3-2 series lead was in the second round of the 2012 playoffs against the Washington Capitals. They lost Game 6 but won Game 7 at Madison Square Garden, where they are 5-0 all-time in Game 7s. The game Wednesday will mark the first Game 7 at MSG between the Rangers and Flyers.

The Rangers dictated much of the play in the first period in Game 6 and generated several good looks but couldn't find an opening as Richards (three shots), Derek Stepan (two shots) and Carl Hagelin (two shots) all were turned away by Mason.

"You get some chances and you don't score and they capitalize on the power play and then they're playing with the lead," forward Martin St. Louis said. "It's big to be playing with the lead.

"But now both teams are in the same boat; we both have to travel back to New York to get ready for a game. We fight for home ice all year and now it's in our building. We have to bring our best [Wednesday], that's the bottom line."

Benoit Pouliot had a great chance to pull the Rangers within 2-1 during a second-period power play, but his quick snap shot from the slot on a 2-on-1 break was stopped by Mason with a spectacular glove save.

"We couldn't score but we couldn't do a lot of things," Richards said. "For whatever reason you never want to have those nights but it wasn't a lack of focus. We wanted to play well but we just didn't execute in many areas."

Richards is confident the Rangers will rebound in a big way at MSG.

"Game 7s are what bring out the best in people and it'll be a hard-fought battle, but we're going home where we've had success in Game 7s," Richards said. "A lot of these guys in this room have had success. That's why we battled hard to the end [of the regular season]; to get home ice."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mikemorrealeNHL

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