Rangers' missed opportunities send series back to New York for Game 7

Rangers' Martin St. Louis, left, hangs his head Rangers' Martin St. Louis, left, hangs his head as his teammates head off the bench to the locker room following Game 6 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers, Tuesday, April 29, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo Credit: AP / Chris Szagola

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Arthur Staple Arthur Staple

Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football. ...

PHILADELPHIA - Here comes trouble for the Rangers.

They have Game 7 in their own building Wednesday night. For all of the Rangers' inability to seize control or close out series promptly, they are 3-0 in Game 7s during the past two postseasons.

So there are elements on their side.

But somehow, in a series the Rangers had controlled through a large portion of the first five games, trouble has seemed to find them at precisely the wrong time.

Their 5-2 loss to the Flyers in Game 6 on Tuesday night was a lopsided affair after the first period, but oh, the chances the Rangers had in that period. Marty St. Louis, who had his weakest game of the postseason (and he was not alone), said afterward, "They're not going to hand you games."

But the Flyers certainly seemed determined to give the puck to the Rangers forwards in the Philly zone as often as possible in the opening 20 minutes of Game 6.

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Too bad the Rangers did nothing with all those gifts handed to them. Derick Brassard hit the post, Steve Mason made a couple of huge saves at crucial moments, and the Rangers missed the net. A lot.

That was trouble enough. It got worse.

From those misses came bigger ones: Ryan McDonagh, whose game went from being slightly off for most of this series to seriously wobbly Tuesday night, had the first Flyers goal go in after he inadvertently kicked the puck back to Wayne Simmonds with a yawning net.

Then McDonagh and Dan Girardi got crossed up and Simmonds scored again, this time off a slow-speed pass that went through McDonagh.

That's real trouble for the Rangers if their top defensive pair carries any of their sub-par play over into Wednesday night.

The Rangers' other headlining players weren't strong enough, either. Rick Nash, now with one goal in 18 Rangers playoff games, made only a few strong rushes and was otherwise content to drift. Same for Derek Stepan, St. Louis and Brad Richards, whose power-play work continued to devolve.

The Rangers have whiffed on 20 straight power plays, dating to the first period of Game 2; the Flyers, meanwhile, scored their fifth and sixth power-play goals in Game 6, making up for the Rangers' domination at even strength with complete control of special-teams play.

There's more trouble. And let's not forget the elusive momentum, which has been completely absent from game to game this series.

Game 7 will start barely 21 hours after Game 6 ended. Mason will be riding high after a superb performance, Henrik Lundqvist can't be happy with being pulled after 40 minutes and the Flyers, after scuffling along at less than optimal efficiency for five-plus games, are finally feeling good about themselves.

"It's great we've got the back-to-back games," said Simmonds, who was nasty and effective in addition to his hat trick. "There's been a couple days between games a few times in this series and teams have had time to regroup. Now we've got the momentum."

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And the Rangers have to put their first real ugly night of the series behind them. Fast.

"Do we have a choice?" coach Alain Vigneault asked.

They do not. It's Game 7 and it would be a bitter defeat if the Rangers let this series slip away.

But it's all down to Wednesday night, one game for the right to move on.

Trouble can find you all too easily in that situation.

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