As the final seconds ticked down in the Flyers’ surprisingly easy 5-2 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night, fans in the Wells Fargo Center started a rhythmic chant.
“We want Pittsburgh! We want Pittsburgh!”
The Flyers are one win away from granting their fans’ wish.
Thanks to Wayne Simmonds’ hat trick (see story) and Steve Mason’s superb goaltending, they evened their best-of-seven divisional semifinals at three game apiece, setting up Game 7 Wednesday night in Madison Square Garden.
“It's Game 7, and both teams are going to bring their ‘A’ game and do anything to win it,” Flyers center Sean Couturier said.
“There’s no better game to be a part of,” Rangers center Brad Richards said. “You always want to close a series out, but when you’re on home ice with your fans in a must-win game, those are great days to be part of. We’re going to embrace it.
"Game 7s are what brings the best out in people,” he added.
Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who had an empty-net goal and two assists, said the Flyers have to put Tuesday’s win behind them and focus on Game 7.
“Obviously we want to keep feeling good about how we played tonight. We have a lot of things to work on because New York, they’re a good team,” he said. “In Madison Square Garden they play a little bit better in front of their fans, so for us we have to have the same attitude and we’ve got to play hard.”
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist allowed four goals Tuesday and was pulled after two periods.
“It’s definitely disappointing, but it’s over,” Lundqvist said. “We have to move on quickly. Go back to New York, get some rest and get ready for (Wednesday). You don’t want to analyze this too much. They just were better in all areas.”
The playoffs, Lundqvist said, “are all about having short memory, so you move on and don’t think too much about this game. They did pretty much everything better than us, even goaltending. We all have to step up (Wednesday) and play our best to try to beat this team.”
The Flyers will be trying to raise their Game 7 record to 10-6; they have won their last here Game 7s, including two on the road (Washington and Boston).
The mindset won’t be much different than it was on Tuesday, Berube said.
“You’ve got to control your emotions to some point. I like the way our team was aggressive tonight, and got in there,” Berube said. “We stuck our nose in there around the net and we’ve got to do the same thing. It’s going to be tough. If you want to score goals on Lunqvist, you’re going to have to work.”
Berube made several line alterations, and they seemed to re-energize his team.
Michael Raffl went to the top line, and Scott Hartnell was dropped to the second line. Brayden Schenn returned to center the second line, and Vinny Lecavalier slid from the second-line to fourth-line center.
“I think it did give us jump,” Berube said of the lineup changes, which included adding defenseman Erik Gustafsson (goal), “but I went to those lines before and it was successful. I like the speed of Raffl on that top line; it’s just a faster line. I thought the Schenn line did a real good job on the (Dominic) Moore line. The Moore line has been an effective line for them. They’re physical and they skate well. I put Hartnell, Schenn, and Simmonds together; it’s a big strong line. They did a good job.”
Simmonds’ big night. In light of the Clippers owner Donald Sterling getting banned from the NBA for racist remarks, Simmonds was asked if it made it more special to become the second black player in NHL history to notch a playoff hat trick.
“Honestly, that's not something that's really on my mind,” he said. “I go into the game situation and I try really not to think about things like that. We're a team. We're all the same color on the inside and we have one common goal, and we go out there to get wins and that's what we're going to do and that's what we try to do every night.”
Breakaways. This is the first Game 7 between the Flyers and Rangers since 1974, when the Flyers scored a 4-3 win at the Spectrum in a game in which the home team took control after Dave Schultz topped Dale Rolfe in a one-sided fight…. Wednesday’s winner gets to face the Penguins in the Metropolitan Division finals, starting Friday in Pittsburgh…..Simmonds had the Flyers’ first playoff hat trick against the Rangers since Eric Lindros in 1997.
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.