Rangers no strangers to playing Game 7s
NEW YORK — A sly grin creased Alain Vigneault's face.
A few minutes after the New York Rangers forced Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs second-round series with a 3-1 win over the Penguins, it was suggested to Vigneault that his team felt its collective anger at its unaccountably poor Game 4 performance was both a positive and a rallying point.
“Yeah, well, that's one way to look at it,” the Rangers' coach said as reporters in the news conference room on Madison Square Garden's fifth floor convulsed in laughter.
Vigneault could afford to be lighthearted. In the span of four days, the Rangers went from being a group that appeared to be outclassed by the Penguins to one that may author a bit of franchise history.
The Rangers have never won a best-of-seven series in which they trailed 3-1. A win in Game 7 on Tuesday at Consol Energy Center, and the Rangers will be headed to the Eastern Conference Final for the second time in three years. A win Tuesday would also mark New York's first playoff series win against the Penguins.
“We don't focus on them,” Derick Brassard said following the Game 6 win Sunday night. His goal with 4:30 remaining in the second period allowed the Rangers to regain a two-goal advantage after Brandon Sutter's marker at 16:56 of the first cut the New York lead to 2-1.
“We try to play them hard, obviously. Some players on their team can change the game at any time but in the past two games we've focused on us. We don't really pay attention to what they do. We try to bring our game to them. If we get them frustrated it's a big plus for us, but we just try to play hard.”
The NHL's fourth-best defensive team in the regular season — the Rangers allowed 190 goals, an average of 2.32 per game — New York has begun to use its speed and forecheck to force the Penguins to defend in the past two games. As a result, the Rangers have outscored the Penguins, 8-2, and appear to have frustrated Sidney Crosby, who has one goal on 17 shots in the series.
This is a Rangers squad that is familiar with Game 7s. It played in five win-or-go-home-for-the-summer games since 2009. New York has won their past four Game 7s, including a 2-1 win over the Flyers in the first round this season.
“It is what it is,” Derek Stepan said of playing in another Game 7. “They're fun, exciting games. It's certainly going to be a big challenge going into (Pittsburgh) and trying to get a game.”
Denis Gorman is a freelance writer.