Rangers beat Penguins to force Game 7
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For the resilient Rangers, riding a wave of emotion in their second potential playoff elimination game since Martin St. Louis' mother died Thursday, there will be a Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.
Trailing three games to two in the Eastern Conference semifinal series, the Rangers beat the Penguins, 3-1, in Game 6 Sunday night, squaring the series before one of the loudest crowds of the season at Madison Square Garden, an audience that included St. Louis' father, Normand, and sister Isabelle.
Just 3:34 into the first period, St. Louis set the tone. He got to the crease, where Derek Stepan's shot deflected off his leg and past Marc-Andre Fleury for a critical 1-0 lead.
St. Louis leaped in the air, celebrating his first point of the series, and was mobbed by his teammates as the Garden faithful chanted "Mar-ty, Mar-ty."
"I know she helped me through this," St. Louis said of his mother, France.
On a two-on-one, Carl Hagelin beat Fleury with a backhander at 6:25 after collecting his own pass that had been blocked by Rob Scuderi. The joint was jumping on Mother's Day after Hagelin's fourth goal of the playoffs.
After the Rangers controlled the first half of the period, at 16:56, Brandon Sutter threw a harmless shot from the right wall at the net that glanced off John Moore, then Kevin Klein's skate at the far post and went past Henrik Lundqvist to make it 2-1.
Of the Penguins' 37 total shots, it would be the only one that Lundqvist let by, even with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin leading a surge in the first that gave the Penguins a 15-14 advantage in shots.
In the second, the Rangers' power play seemed to revert to loose play that almost doomed them in the Flyers series. The Pens almost scored on two shorthanded breakaways, by Marcel Goc and Brian Gibbons, but Lundqvist denied them both.
Derick Brassard, with his third goal in two games, restored the two-goal lead with 4:30 left in the period. Benoit Pouliot's long shot was stopped but was not controlled by Fleury. In a scramble, Brassard kicked the puck toward Fleury, it hit him and popped up, and Brassard bunted it home at the right post.
Things turned chippy at the buzzer to end the second, with Crosby's jab to Dominic Moore's groin, Brian Boyle's crosscheck that knocked Crosby's helmet off, Chris Kunitz's tackle and some Malkin punches. The scrums continued in the third. The Penguins were whistled for four more penalties, including James Neal's misconduct with 10 seconds left.
"If we get them frustrated, it's a big plus for us," Brassard said.
Ryan McDonagh liked the pushback. "We feel we're trying to do a good job keeping our discipline,'' he said, "but it's good that we're trying to play with a little bit of an edge."
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he's concerned "that there's a lot of poking at our goaltender after the whistle . . . always the same guys."
The Rangers are 4-0 in Game 7s the past three years. They were 2-0 in 2012 (Ottawa, Washington), 1-0 in 2013 (Washington) and 1-0 this year (Philadelphia).
The Pens were terrific at Consol Energy Center all season, but the Rangers have won two of the three playoff games there.
One other note: St. Louis was part of the Tampa Bay team that came back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat Pittsburgh in 2011.
It all sets up another intense matchup. "We've given ourselves a chance here, these last two games, by playing the way we know we're capable of playing," McDonagh said. "They're going to come out with a lot of fire. We've got to be ready."