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Rangers return home with chance to oust Penguins

by Mike G. Morreale /



(New York leads best-of-7 series 3-1)

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers would like nothing more than to close out their Eastern Conference First Round series in Game 5 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in front of their loyal fans at Madison Square Garden on Friday.

The Presidents' Trophy regular-season winners are 13-1 in 14 all-time best-of-7 playoff series in which they led 3-1.

"We worked hard all season long to get home ice and we're going to try to take that on our side because our fans have been supporting us all year," Rangers center Derick Brassard said. "Our first two games [at Madison Square Garden] were pretty loud and it gave us a lot of energy on the ice. Obviously we'll try and take advantage of that. We don't want to look at the big picture. We just want to look at putting our best effort forward in Game 5."

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault anticipates another low-scoring, close outcome to Game 5. The Rangers have won each of their three games against the Penguins by a 2-1 score. It marks the first time they have won three games when scoring two or fewer goals in one playoff series since the 1928 Stanley Cup Final against the Montreal Maroons.

"We're working really hard and playing against a good team; it's playoff hockey and there's not a lot separating the teams here," Vigneault said. "To assume we can just step on the ice and dominate any team in the playoffs right now is not possible. Pittsburgh has elite players and great balance up front, and a goalie who has won a Stanley Cup and proven he's one of the top guys in the League."

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who has a 1.74 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in four playoff games, knows the Penguins will not be an easy out.

"It's desperation mode for them and the key is to match that," Lundqvist said. "You have to grab every opportunity you get to finish a series. You can't just think you have more chances. You've got to go for it and match their desperation. It's tough. Every game here has been one goal and it's not going to be easy. We have to prepare the right way mentally, physically and get ready for battle."

It won't be easy for Pittsburgh. The Rangers have won nine of the past 11 regular season and playoff games against the Penguins. New York also won six of its past seven playoff games against Pittsburgh, allowing one goal in each of the six victories.

Lundqvist has won six of his past seven playoff games against the Penguins with a 1.42 GAA and .950 save percentage over the span. He has also won eight of his past 10 regular season and playoff games with a 1.89 GAA and a .931 save percentage over that stretch.

Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has allowed two or fewer goals in seven of the past 10 playoff games. Unfortunately for Fleury, the Penguins offense has scored two or fewer over that same stretch.

"We're playing good and we don't give them too much; we just have to keep grinding it out," Fleury said.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will play in his 100th career postseason game Friday. He has 43 goals and 117 points in 99 postseason matches.

"We should be loose and going after it," Crosby said of Game 5. "You don't want to be tentative in [elimination] games; you've got to leave it all out there. That's all you can do, is be desperate and bring it back [to Pittsburgh]."


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