PITTSBURGH - The morning after the sudden death of his 63-year-old mother, France, on Thursday, Martin St. Louis made a decision along with his father, Normand: Martin would fly to Pittsburgh and play in a must-win Game 5 for the Rangers.
"You don't expect these things," said an emotional St. Louis, who played 16:19 in the Rangers' 5-1 win after returning from Laval, Quebec, a Montreal suburb. "It was a tough couple days for my family, but I know deep down my mother, my mom, would want me to play this game. She'd be proud of me for coming here to help as much as I can."
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After landing in Pittsburgh on Thursday and learning of the news, "we sent him right home,'' Alain Vigneault said. "It was obviously a very, very quiet bus ride from the airport to the hotel.''
St. Louis, 38, thanked his teammates and friends around the league for their support. "I was excited that I got to be there last night," he said. "I saw her before they took her away . . . and I was able to spend some quality time with my father. I think he needed that too, for me to play. I know he's proud and I know my mom's proud. I'm glad we were able to get this win and stay alive."
St. Louis flew back to Montreal for funeral services and will return for Game 6 Sunday at the Garden. "She was a great lady, the greatest human being I've ever known in my life, and I owed it to her to do it,'' he said. "I know she would want me to do it. ''
Brian Boyle said players respect St. Louis on and off the ice. "In the short time he's been here, he's been pretty magnetic . . . You see his love for the game," he said. "It was impressive watching him tonight, even before the game. He's a special person."
Ryan McDonagh said the players "could see in his eyes'' how much pain he was in, "but he composed himself and played . . . incredible.''
"Tonight we played for Marty and his family,'' Henrik Lundqvist said. "That's the feeling I had going into this.''
"When we landed at the [Pittsburgh] airport, we had to go,'' Derick Brassard said. "But if we didn't have to go, I bet the whole team would have went with him."