Martin St. Louis plays for Rangers after death of his mother
It already was going to be emotional in Game 5, as it will be again for Martin St. Louis and the Rangers on Sunday -- Mother's Day of all days, barely 72 hours past St. Louis losing his mother, France.
The Rangers made sure that St. Louis' agonizing decision to play Game 5 wasn't for nothing by taking that emotion and turning it into their best game of the postseason.
"We had a fire in our bellies to begin with," Chris Kreider said, "but seeing him here certainly added to it."
Win or lose, the Rangers wanted to make sure that St. Louis' decision to return from his parents' home in Montreal after the death of his mother on Thursday was the right move.
It certainly wasn't an easy call. St. Louis had been home for less than 24 hours with his family and decided to return to Pittsburgh and play in the elimination game. None of his teammates expected St. Louis to be at the Consol Energy Center when they arrived Friday.
"But there he was, getting ready," Marc Staal said. "I don't know if I'd have been able to do that . . . To see him here after all he and his family went through, you don't want to go out there and not do your best."
There was no storybook moment for St. Louis, who wanted to honor his mother in the best way he knew how.
He didn't score the eventual winner. He didn't even register a point. But he inspired an outstanding team effort by the Rangers, the sort of performance they needed to get the Penguins thinking.
St. Louis and Carl Hagelin buzzed in the offensive zone. Rick Nash had some speed and played with bite. Kreider looked a bit less rusty in his second game back.
And those were just the supporting players. The Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello-Benoit Pouliot line was a force, with the pivotal second goal coming on a badly blown assignment by Sidney Crosby.
Ryan McDonagh played the way Alain Vigneault and everyone else has expected him to play all playoffs long. Henrik Lundqvist had a terrific game, the first he's had at the same time that most of his teammates had good nights as well.
It was a night when the Rangers gushed about St. Louis, who in turn gushed about this team he's belonged to for barely two months.
"The support I've gotten from the Rangers, my teammates, friends and family, has been unbelievable," St. Louis said. "I knew deep down my mother would have wanted me to play this game.
"She'd be proud of me."
There will be more emotion to come on Sunday, Mother's Day of all days, a day when St. Louis by all rights should be with his father and the rest of his grieving family.
But there certainly is no doubt where St. Louis will be -- at Madison Square Garden, wrestling with emotions yet again as he tries to be the leader this team needs.
After an unacceptably dull and dreary Game 4, the Rangers were inspired to be the team they needed to be in Game 5. The team they will need to be on Sunday to force a Game 7 back here, to counteract the Crosby-Malkin dominance from the previous three games.
"Win or lose, we wanted to give them a taste tonight," Brad Richards said. "We wanted to put them on their heels instead of us being on ours."
With St. Louis leading the charge, they played with emotion and desperation. They will need all of it again on Sunday.