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Can Rangers carry momentum into Washington?

New York Rangers' Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and

New York Rangers' Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Jesper Fast celebrate McDonagh's game-winning goal in overtime during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, May 8, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

For the Rangers, it's far too early for certainties. But they can draw on the recent past for possibilities.

On Mother's Day a year ago, the Rangers trailed 3-2 in the series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals.

They had survived elimination in Game 5 in Pittsburgh, but the final score was 5-1, not like the other night in a gut-wrenching 2-1 comeback win in overtime against the Capitals at Madison Square Garden on Friday.

Last Mother's Day, veteran Martin St. Louis, who arrived from Tampa Bay in a trade that sent Ryan Callahan to the Lightning, was still shaken by the sudden death of his 63-year-old mom three days before.

On that emotional Sunday evening at the Garden, with the crowd chanting "Marty, Marty," Derek Stepan's shot hit St. Louis in front and rolled in just 3:34 into Game 6 and the Blueshirts never trailed en route to a 3-1 win to force a Game 7.

"Everybody is playing their hearts out, and that's what you want to see this time of the year," St. Louis said at the time. "Mother's Day, my dad's here, my sister's here. It's been a tough time for my whole family. To be able to get the lead in the first period, it was a good one."

The Rangers will spend this Mother's Day in Washington, and tonight will be looking for opportunities to bring this series back to New York for another Game 7.

"It's a big-time uphill battle. We got the first one," defenseman Dan Girardi said Saturday. "We were down 3-1 against Pitt and they were one of the top teams in the league. It felt good to win that first game, second game, and Game 7, anything can happen. The accomplishment of winning that series . . . we know what that can feel like, so we have to make sure we have a good game to give ourselves a chance."

But the wave of emotion and energy for this Game 6, at Verizon Center, where the Rangers lost two games last week and have won just four of the last 16 playoff games, will be behind the home team.

Spurred by a red-bedecked crowd far louder and manic than the Garden so far, the Capitals are 5-1 at home, as well as 4-0 this postseason after losses and they have not lost consecutive games since March 11-13.

Through five games, the Capitals have scored only eight goals against Henrik Lundqvist; the Rangers have scored one fewer against Braden Holtby. But coach Alain Vigneault doesn't plan to tinker much.

"You can't put too many thoughts offensively in the guys' minds," Vigneault said. "You've got to trust their instincts and they've got good instincts. We're one of the best scoring teams in the NHL and our game is good. We got a bounce on the winning goal [Friday]. Hopefully, if we keep doing the right things, we'll get a couple more of those."

Said Stepan, who set up both goals in Game 5: "We've been talking so much about trying to get pucks on net and shoot more. After [Friday], our mindset needs to be: Make the right play. If we got a lane to shoot it, we need to shoot . . . you saw there wasn't much there and we had to make one more play."

Notes & quotes: Mats Zuccarello, who is recovering from the effects of being struck in the head with a shot in Game 5 against the Penguins, "is progressing," a team spokesman said, and made the trip to Washington with the team. The winger, who also attended Game 5, remains out. "It creates a little bump," Girardi said. "It's good to see his face; he's always laughing and telling jokes and keeping it light. It's good to see him out and feeling good."

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