Game 6 Saturday night at Madison Square Garden may only be an elimination game for the Montreal Canadiens, but the Rangers are approaching it as if their playoff lives are on the line as well.
New York can close out the Canadiens and advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a win at Madison Square Garden, and certainly don't want to roll the dice with another game in Montreal.
"We want to look at it as a Game 7," defenseman Brendan Smith said Friday when asked how he and the Blueshirts would match Montreal's desperation as the team facing elimination. "We don't want to come back [to Montreal] because then anything can happen.
"I've played a couple Game 7s. It's tough," the blueliner added. "It can go either way. I think we have to try and make sure that we really play a smart game back home. We can use our fans as a motivator as well."
Video: Smith on Rangers having to play a smart game at home
The Rangers have made the postseason seven straight seasons, so they're familiar with the position Montreal is in. From their point of view, though, they're in an ideal situation to carry over their strong play from the second-half of Thursday's Game 5 onto home ice.
"It's an elimination game for them. We've been in that situation a lot and know the feeling going into it and doing anything you can to get a win," defenseman Marc Staal said. "I think for us the opportunity is to close the series out at home. Our effort and our compete and desperation will be there."
The Rangers enjoyed Thursday's overtime win, but by Friday morning Game 5's hero Mika Zibanejad said he and the team had already turned the page.
"Still amazing. Still one of the most important goals and one of the greatest goals I've scored," Zibanejad admitted. "But as far as that, now it's done. Now the focus goes on to the next game here. We know we put ourselves in a really good spot and have a great opportunity to close this out on home ice and don't have to come back [to Montreal]. The focus is on tomorrow."
The goal now is to carry over the momentum from Game 5 into Game 6, especially the latter stages of the contest when New York carried the play from late in second period through Zibanejad's winner at 14:22 of the extra frame.
The Rangers outshot Montreal 10-3 in the overtime, and Staal said that aggression was by design and is the way New York wants to play from the start of the game Saturday.
"We didn't want to go into it with our toes in the water." Staal said of the team's mindset heading into overtime. "We wanted to come in and try and dictate the play. I think our guys up front were doing a good job of making plays and not being afraid to skate the puck, make a play and try to create something and try and go out there and get a goal."
Video: Zibanejad: We have to come out strong in the start
The difference between the two clubs in the series has been thin. But the Rangers have the one-game advantage and know the opportunity that's at hand in Game 6.
"It's been a lot of back and forth," Zibanejad said. "It's been really tight. We have a great opportunity to come home with a 3-2 lead here and we're looking to take advantage of that and try to close this out at home."