Rangers know they must reach higher level in Pittsburgh to keep their season alive

Henrik Lundqvist skates off the ice after a

Henrik Lundqvist skates off the ice after a loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Rangers' backs are against the wall, so the mantras were predictable:

"We have to win one game."

"We've won in their building."

"We haven't played our best yet."

The comments came Thursday before the Rangers flew to Pittsburgh for Friday night's Game 5, and after a performance in a 4-2 loss Wednesday night that Henrik Lundqvist termed "brutal."

Trailing 3-1 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series, the Rangers are acutely aware that unless they find another gear, the Penguins will wrap up the series at home, where they split the first two games of this series. If the Rangers win in Pittsburgh, then Sunday's Game 6 at Madison Square Garden will begin at 7 p.m.

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"It's now or never," Lundqvist said. "We have to leave everything we have out there. I think the bounces will come and we'll get a better feeling. It's definitely not over. I still feel like we can push them a little bit more; we're making it too easy for them."

Derek Stepan, who had two goals in the first five games against the Flyers but is pointless since, understands the situation. "I certainly don't think I've produced the way I've needed to," he said. "Playing hard and getting looks isn't enough. I was playing good hockey since the Olympic break, seemed to have a little mojo going, and carried it into the first few games, and then you go icy . . . I don't think much has to change; I've been doing a lot of things I've been doing all along. Maybe I need to get in front, the puck hits me and we get a goofy goal. You just have to let go. No sense in worrying about what happened before."

Alain Vigneault, who had added Raphael Diaz, Jesper Fast, J.T. Miller and, on Wednesday night, Chris Kreider to the mix, probably will tinker with the lineup again. His team has scored five goals in four games and is 0-for-its-last-37 on the power play. "We're looking at all possibilities," Vigneault said. "We've had a fair amount of success by being consistent. We did make some changes. Those didn't work out to our advantage."

At what could have been the Rangers' final practice at their training center, it appeared more changes were pending.

On defense, John Moore, a healthy scratch the last two games, was back with partner Kevin Klein. Diaz, who dressed for the last two games, was with the oft-scratched Justin Falk.

Up front, Kreider, who skated with Stepan and Rick Nash in his return Wednesday after missing 19 games with a fractured left hand, was with Stepan and Mats Zuccarello. Nash moved to a line with Brad Richards and Dan Carcillo, although Carcillo was subbing for Carl Hagelin, sitting out for a maintenance day. Martin St. Louis was with Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot. The Brian Boyle-Dominic Moore duo remained intact; Miller and Derek Dorsett, both scratched in Game 4, rotated in the third spot of that fourth-line trio.

"The toughest game to win is always the fourth one," Brassard said. "We've seen it ourselves in other series. We need to play better with the puck. The forwards, we need to come back quicker, and the D need to get us the puck quicker."

Notes & quotes: The Rangers confirmed that St. Louis' mother passed away Thursday in Montreal. It was unclear whether he will play in Game 5 . . . Marc Staal, who has suffered concussions in the past, is being accused by some in the Pittsburgh media of delivering head shots to Sidney Crosby. Staal said: "That's news to me. I'm not purposely going for anybody's head. I, for one, should know the cost of that . . . so that's not something I'm trying to do. You try to play that guy hard and physical when you can."

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