Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist have good track record in Game 7s
PITTSBURGH - Surprisingly, the opportunity is there for the Rangers Tuesday night.
"It's Game 7. You can win a series," said Brad Richards, who should know: He is 6-0 in Game 7s. "We have a chance to go to the Eastern Conference finals twice in the last three years."
That first time was against the Devils in 2012. It didn't turn out well, with the Rangers losing in six games.
On Tuesday night, with a different coach, Alain Vigneault, and a different opponent (the Rangers and Penguins have never met in a Game 7), the Blueshirts want another turn at the next rung on the Stanley Cup ladder.
"We've been pushing," said Martin St. Louis, who has been the central figure in this drama for the past two games after the death of his mother. "We were battle-tested in the first round; these are the games you want to play."
St. Louis also speaks from experience. He is 4-1 in Game 7s.
The Rangers made it to this showdown at Consol Energy Center with two straight wins, but the third will not come easy.
"We've got to realize their desperation is not going to be manufactured," Richards said. "Now it's going to be real."
Henrik Lundqvist, who surrendered a total of only two goals in Games 5 and 6, seemed to embrace the challenge of winning after the shock of St. Louis' loss and St. Louis' early goal on Mother's Day.
"Everybody cares for each other when you play," Lundqvist said. "You want to stick together even more when things get tough. It's definitely a game you remember."
At practice Monday, however, Lundqvist turned the page. "I think momentum swings happen during the games, but not between games," he said. "Whatever happened yesterday is gone."
Lundqvist's numbers are amazing when it comes to Game 7s. He is 4-0 with a 0.75 GAA and a .973 save percentage in the last four, and the Rangers are 7-1 in the past eight.
"He's a great goaltender," Vigneault said, "but this Game 7, against this team, it's going to have to be a team effort."
Just as controlling the explosive Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is going to take a collective effort, not a single defender.
"It's not just the defense," Marc Staal said. "If the backchecking and back pressure is good, it's going to be difficult for them to make plays."
In Game 6, Crosby, Malkin and linemate Chris Kunitz had only three of the Penguins' 37 shots.
"The chances they did get, for the most part, weren't Grade-A opportunities, and they get frustrated," Staal said.
Tuesday night's winner will face the winner of the series between the Bruins and Canadiens, who beat Boston Monday night to force a Game 7.
But first things first.
"Our start [Tuesday night] is going to be key," Staal said. "I'm sure they're saying it's going to be the same for them. We're going to have to weather the storm."
Crosby, who spoke with reporters here Monday, said: "We didn't help ourselves the last two games we played . . . We look at it as responding."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma approached the game as a clean slate. "We've seen a little frustration at times," he said. "We can't live in Games 3 and 4 [both wins] and we certainly can't live in Games 5 and 6."
Neither can the Rangers.