GREENBURGH, N.Y -- The mantra on the navy blue T-shirts with the Rangers crest that players have been wearing lays it out: "Stay Positive" one side reads; "Stay Together" is printed on the other.
Perhaps there should be a third unifying invocation: "Win at all costs."
Trailing 3-2 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series to the Washington Capitals, the Rangers must prevail in two straight games to advance to the second round, and although the series has been pretty even, the Blue- shirts have left themselves no margin for error.
"We're going to need everybody," said Henrik Lundqvist, who will start his 20th straight game. "The difference between losing and winning is really small," he said Saturday after the Rangers practiced for Sunday's do-or-die Game 6. "We can't get too low, because we're not far off. We have to focus on the things we talked about the last several months."
Specifically, they can point to tapping the energy of the crowd for two straight 4-3 wins at the Garden that tied the series at two games apiece. They also can turn back the calendar further, to last spring, when that squad, which has since undergone many changes, was 3-1 in elimination games. They took Games 6 and 7 in a first-round series against the Senators, won Game 7 in the second round against the Capitals and then lost to the Devils in Game 6 in Newark.
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who skated in those games, said the experience "is a big advantage, you try not to add any extra pressure. Reflecting on a 3-2 win in Game 6 in Ottawa, Del Zotto said: "We play all year for this time of year. Every little play matters, you just feel so into it, so alive. We know what's at stake. We're not worried about Monday's game [if necessary, in Washington]. It's all about tomorrow."
From Del Zotto to struggling center Brad Richards to coach John Tortorella, improving the forecheck, and maintaining it, is a must. "Once they scored that power play goal [to tie it at 1 in Game 5]," Del Zotto said, "it was tough to get a forecheck going."
Tortorella said that "more people need to get involved [in the forecheck] . . . it got to be a pretty short bench; I'd like to use more people tomorrow, but I also have to make decisions as far as who's producing both offensively and defensively."
The coach declined to discuss the performances of Rick Nash (one assist in five games) and Richards (one goal in five). "We know both of them are fighting it," he said. "I'm not going to get into a public conversation about it, it doesn't do anybody any good."
Asked about the previous five games, Richards said: "I try to wipe it clean, but obviously I'd like to have more to account for . . . It really doesn't matter. It's what's in front of us."
Nash said he evaluates his game "whether we won or lost."
The Rangers have a final chance at home to do the former -- or the season is the latter.
Notes & quotes: Ryane Clowe, who left Game 5 after a nasty check from Jason Chimera in the first period that drove his head into the glass, did not skate, which means that either rookie Chris Kreider or Kris Newbury, who did practice, will step in. Tortorella said the coaches would "try to find pick the best player we can," regardless of whether he was in the same rugged mode as Clowe . . . Defenseman Anton Stralman and right wing Arron Asham were given the day off for rest and treatment.