By Dan Mount, Contributing Writer
After a week filled with emotion, Martin St. Louis injected some into the New York Rangers.
St. Louis scored the game-opening goal three minutes, 34 seconds into the first period as the Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-1, to avoid elimination for the second time in the series and force a winner-take-all game seven at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
The fans at Madison Square Garden gave a warm welcome to St. Louis, but the cheers grew louder after scoring that first goal. St. Louis acknowledged during postgame comments that he “got a good bounce” and said his mother “helped me through this.”
Carl Hagelin helped the Rangers to a 2-0 lead just 2:51 after the first marker. Derek Brassard finished off the scoring with his fourth goal of the playoffs in the second period.
Henrik Lundqvist stood tall and made 36 saves despite lingering shoulder issues that have troubled him all postseason long.
Brandon Sutter tallied the lone marker for the Penguins and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 shots.
This is only the second time the Rangers have forced a game seven in their history after being down three games to one, with the only other time being in 1939. If the Rangers win on Tuesday, it’ll be the first time they’ve gone onto win after being in a 3-1 hole.
New York has been accustomed to playing in game sevens as NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen pointed out that the Rangers have played six game sevens in their last nine playoff series. A reason to be optimistic is New York has won the last four game sevens it has been in.
Pittsburgh is feeling the pressure after two lackluster performances in a row. The Penguins have squandered two chances to put away a team that looked lethargic in the previous two encounters at MSG. History may not be on the Pens side as the site Sports Rants NHL points out that Pittsburgh is 1-7 in series-clinching games under head coach Dan Bylsma and 2-6 at home in game sevens in franchise history.
The Rangers once again frustrated Sidney Crosby and that really showed as Crosby speared Dominic Moore at the end of the second period, which led to a melee. The scrum was then punctuated by Lundqvist coming over and spraying Crosby with his water bottle.
Hank will probably be fined for this like Boston’s Shawn Thornton did to P.K. Subban of Montreal.
Game sevens are emotional affairs, but the escalating chipiness has turned this series up a notch. I thought the Flyers and Rangers were going to have a war, but Penguins and Rangers have turned it up to another level with all of the hits and physical play.
I thought the Rangers were done after going down 3-1, but they’ve at least given themselves a chance after reaching game seven. Anything can happen in once.
Dan Mount is hockey writer for TJRSports.com. He is also a producer for Spadora on Sports. He can be reached on Twitter @DanMountSports.