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Rangers riding emotion into Game 6 at Garden

by Dan Rosen

New York Rangers center Brad Richards ideally would be playing a Stanley Cup Playoff game on Mother's Day knowing none of his teammates, let alone close friend Martin St. Louis, is dealing with any type of personal tragedy or hardship.

Because reality doesn't meet Richards' wishes, he said the Rangers should again try to keep their season going by using the emotional lift of having St. Louis in the lineup, this time for Game 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday, days after the sudden passing of his mother, France.

The Penguins lead the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series 3-2. St. Louis was in the lineup for Game 5 on Friday, a 5-1 Rangers' win, after his 63-year-old mother died of a heart attack Thursday.

"When your season is on the line it's a given that you have to come in with every ounce that you have mentally and physically and put it all on the line," Richards said. "I think we did a good job of having everybody do it [Friday] night. That's the biggest challenge, getting everybody to put forth that energy level and try to do it all again [Sunday] night, make them try to get to our level. It was Marty [on Friday] night, and it's Mother's Day [Sunday], so we'll try to use that and get even more emotion and try to go out there and get a big win."

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said St. Louis flew home to Montreal after the game Friday to rejoin his family. The 38-year-old left the team Thursday but returned in time to play Friday.

Vigneault said St. Louis is bringing his father and sister to Madison Square Garden for the game Sunday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"Hopefully that will bring us some positive energy," Vigneault said.

The Rangers could use it. They are facing elimination for the third time this postseason. So far they are 2-0 with a win in Game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers and in Game 5 against the Penguins.

New York is 8-2 in its past 10 games when facing elimination, with its losses coming in Game 5 against the Boston Bruins last season and in Game 7 against the New Jersey Devils in the 2012 Eastern Conference Final.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has a .953 save percentage and 1.38 goals-against average in potential elimination games since the start of the 2012 playoffs.

"It's going to be an emotional night without a doubt for our group, again, but through adversity and some of these moments we've been able to focus in the right areas," Vigneault said. "That's what we did [Friday] night. We focused in the right areas. We applied the game plan that we wanted to apply.

"Right now if our intentions are on continuing to play this year we have to win [Sunday]. Pittsburgh, if they don't win [Sunday], they still have another opportunity. From our standpoint, we don't have a choice. Our level of play, our level of execution, our level of compete and desperation has to be as high as it can be."

The Rangers' levels of execution, compete and desperation were admittedly low the previous time they played at Madison Square Garden. They managed 15 shots on goal and lost 4-2 to fall behind 3-1 in the series.

Richards said the difference between New York's dominant, winning performance in Game 5 and its poor, losing effort in Game 4 was skating.

"They have some talented people where they can go back and get pucks and wheel up the ice, and we gave them a lot of free ice in Game 4," Richards said. "We just seemed like we were [skating] more in fives [in Game 5], and when you're skating in fives you cover a lot more ice, and you turn pucks over, and you create a lot more."

The Rangers created traffic in front of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who gave up four goals on 26 shots through two periods Friday. They forced the Penguins into errors that led to two power-play goals, New York's first since Game 2 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The line of Derick Brassard, Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello combined for seven points, including three each for Brassard and Zuccarello.

"We kept jumping on pucks, getting back together, getting back up the ice as quick as possible," Richards said. "I think it all starts with skating, and not just one guy on the line. The D-men and forwards, everyone was in unison and moving up the ice."

Why they didn't do that in Game 4 is a moot point now, Vigneault said.

"Like we've mentioned a couple of times, it was a bad time to have a bad game," he said, "but we did and we've moved passed it. We got ready for [Friday] night and we played a good game."

They did so by riding an unfortunate emotional lift created by a teammate's personal struggle.

The Rangers wish the circumstances were different, but carrying those raw emotions into Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Mother's Day of all days, might help them force a Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.


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