The New York Rangers put forth their best effort of the Eastern Conference second round to take Game 5 and stave off elimination. The Blueshirts hope to stay alive once again when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins in Sunday's Game 6 battle at Madison Square Garden.
New York recorded a 5-1 victory Friday evening in Pittsburgh to cut its series deficit to 3-2. It was the first win for the Rangers since they claimed Game 1 in the Steel City by a 3-2 score in overtime.
In order to extend this best-of-seven set to a decisive seventh game, however, New York will have to pick up its first home victory of the series. The Rangers lost Games 3 and 4 at MSG to the Pens and were outscored by a combined 6-2 margin in those contests.
New York is 3-3 on home ice in this postseason, but has won its last five games at the Garden when facing elimination. The Rangers are 8-2 over their last 10 elimination games overall.
The Rangers hope to build off Friday's emotional victory in Pittsburgh. Perhaps drawing additional inspiration from the presence of forward Martin St. Louis, who returned to the team one day after his mother, France, suddenly passed away in his native Quebec, the Rangers' sense of urgency was evident right from the start in Game 5.
St. Louis registered just one shot on goal in 16-plus minutes of ice time, but his participation in the game was enough to inspire his teammates.
"We played for Marty and his family," said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. "That's the thing we had going for us."
It expects to be another emotional night on Sunday, as St. Louis' sister and father expect to be in attendance at MSG.
New York outshot the Penguins 10-3 over the game's opening 10 minutes and peppered Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with 17 chances while jumping out to a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period.
After mustering a mere two goals over three straight losses in their Eastern Conference semifinal series, the Rangers scored four over the first two periods en route to the blowout victory.
Derick Brassard led the charge with a pair of goals and an assist, with Mats Zuccarello lending three helpers to support a 31-save effort from Lundqvist.
Ryan McDonagh and Chris Kreider each added a goal and an assist, while Kevin Klein tacked on an empty-net tally to finish off the rout.
"We needed to step up tonight," said Brassard. "I don't think the last two games ... we were OK. We didn't play bad but we were nothing special. We just tried to play hard today. We had some lucky bounces and we made some plays."
Kreider, playing for just the second time in this postseason after missing time with a broken hand, began New York's outburst by putting home a long rebound of a McDonagh shot with the Rangers on the power play midway through the first period.
The goal snapped an 0-for-36 drought with the man advantage for New York, tied with the 2007 Anaheim Ducks for the longest in NHL playoff history. The Rangers finished the night 2-for-3 on the power play and is 5-for-47 with the man advantage in this postseason.
"I think we've been doing some things well on the power play," Kreider said. "It's hard when you see that looming statistic. But it's nice when you finally get one. I think it was huge. I think it was a really important goal."
Evgeni Malkin had the lone goal for Pittsburgh, which is trying to go 5-0 all- time in playoff series against the Rangers.
Fleury, who helped Pittsburgh build a 3-1 series lead by recording shutouts in Games 2 and 3, stopped just 30-of-34 shots on Friday.
"They came really hard, really aggressive down the walls," Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma said of the Rangers. "We turned over a few pucks as a result, let to their offensive-zone time. In addition to that we had some unforced errors."
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik did not play after sustaining an undisclosed injury in Wednesday's Game 4 win. Robert Bortuzzo filled in for Orpik in Game 5 and will likely do so again on Sunday.
Pittsburgh is 9-2 all-time in series when holding a 3-1 lead. The last time the Penguins blew a 3-1 lead was in the 2011 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against Tampa Bay when both Sidney Crosby and Malkin were injured and missed the series.