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Rangers 'play hard' for St. Louis after mother's death

by Adam Kimelman

PITTSBURGH -- The New York Rangers weren't expecting to see forward Martin St. Louis when they took the ice for Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

But one day after the death of his mother, France, St. Louis rejoined the Rangers here. He had one shot on goal in 16:19 of ice time, but it was his presence that inspired them to a 5-1 win that extended the series.

St. Louis learned of the death of his 63-year-old mother Thursday when the Rangers arrived in Pittsburgh. He immediately left to join his family in Montreal. After spending time there and talking with his father, St. Louis returned here Friday.

"I know deep down my mother would have wanted me to play this game," St. Louis said. "She'd be proud of me coming here to help as much as I can. ... She was a great lady, best human being I've known in my life. I owed it to her to do it. I know she would want me to do it."

Pittsburgh leads the best-of-7 series 3-2 with Game 6 on Sunday in New York (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

The Rangers scored two goals total in the previous three games, all Penguins wins, before scoring five times Friday.

"He gets to the rink [Friday] and he's standing there ready to go," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "Can't say enough about the guy. Comes in and doesn't want to leave us out to dry. Comes and wants to compete with us and try to win the hockey game. Can't imagine what he's going through, what he's feeling like. It's an emotional lift. You want to play hard for a guy like that who's coming from such a tragedy. You want to rally around it."

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said before the game he left the decision to play to St. Louis.

"We had a good talk [Thursday] night, and at the end of the day my message to him was there's more important things than hockey," Vigneault said. "You have to do what's right. You have to take care of your dad. But they got up [Friday] morning and they talked and they sorted it out. And he's here."

St. Louis has been with the Rangers since the NHL Trade Deadline and credited his new organization and teammates for helping him get through the past two days. He said he has heard from friends around the NHL, and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby extended his condolences during a brief conversation before the game.

"When we landed at the airport [in Pittsburgh], we had to go, but I bet you if we all could have gone with him, the whole team would have gone with him [to Montreal]," New York forward Derick Brassard said.

The fact that Game 6 is on Mother's Day is a coincidence not lost on Vigneault.

"For us, it was obviously a real emotional day," he said. "We got another chance to continue. It's going to be on Mother's Day, which is obviously going to be real special for our group. We're going to be ready."

Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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