GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- At about 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday, after the flight home from Game 6 in Ottawa, the tweets asking for support from the Broadway faithful appeared.
Without a doubt, the Rangers are counting on an immense emotional lift in a win-or-go-home Game 7 against the Senators at Madison Square Garden Thursday night. The Blueshirts have not hosted a Game 7 since the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994.
"I'm looking forward to playing in front of a sold-out house," Gaborik said after practice Wednesday. "They'll be a seventh player on the ice."
To advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs, talent counts, but a raucous, devoted crowd can't hurt. Even coach John Tortorella, who has pooh-poohed any difference that home-ice brings, concedes that it matters in a Game 7. "I think that's when your advantage is," he said, but wouldn't discuss whether it was the energy spilling from the stands or his ability to have the last changes in line and defensive matchups that supplies the edge.
The numbers indicate that home cooking can help. In the NHL, the home team has won 60.7 percent of Game 7s (85-55), according to whowins.com, a site that analyzes sports results. In the first round, the percentage dips slightly to 58.5 (31-22).
"In my experience, to get the last game before your fans, it's a comfort zone," Richards said. "We've talked, and it's been about how we're going to enjoy something that not a lot of people get to do. It's not the Stanley Cup or the finals, but Game 7s are something you don't forget. It's a great opportunity for everybody to step up . . .You just go with it."
One player who badly wants to contribute more is Gaborik, who scored 41 goals during the season, but just one this series, which came back in Game 1.
He acknowledged that not scoring has "been a little frustrating, but hopefully, it's going to be a night when things are going to go the way I want them to. Hopefully, I'll come up big. I'm confident in our team . . . It's been a tight series . . . the importance of [Game 6] is that we scored three goals and got the power play going."
Brandon Dubinsky added, "To be able to feed off the fans Thursday will be amazing. But you've got to take the emotion and adrenaline and channel it in the right direction: not letting it boil over and taking a bad penalty or trying to make too special of a play because you get too excited.
"And with all the momentum swings, especially in a Game 7, if you have it, you have to try to sustain it as long as you can, or grab it back as quick as you can."