Rangers go for clincher tonight
THE LAST time the New York Rangers had a game to forget, they responded with five straight wins that put them on the cusp of the Stanley Cup finals.
They are still there, and the Montreal Canadiens aren't going away without a fight.
New York needs one more victory to reach the championship round for the first time in 20 years. The Rangers know that Game 6 at home tonight is their best chance to get it.
The Rangers returned home from Montreal yesterday, a day after a wild, 7-4 loss cut their series lead to 3-2. If New York doesn't end it tonight, the Rangers will have to go back to Montreal for Game 7.
New York, which went the full seven games in each of the first two rounds of this year's playoffs, will be playing its 20th postseason game. No team that played a pair of seven-game series before the conference finals has reached the Stanley Cup finals.
"It's an opportunity to win the game to go to the Stanley Cup finals," Rangers forward Brad Richards said. "I think everybody is alert and ready. We were talking about it all [Tuesday] how excited we were to get on the ice and start playing.
"We had some mental breakdowns, but I don't think it had anything to do with [fatigue]. We've had a lot of rest this series. The opportunity that faces us right now, we're pretty excited about it. I don't think there is too much letdown."
In the second round, a poor performance at home in Game 4 against Pittsburgh dropped the Rangers into a 3-1 series hole. But New York won Game 5 on the road, took Game 6 at home, and won the clincher back in Pittsburgh to set up the matchup with Montreal.
Now that the Canadiens have staved off elimination once, the Rangers are wary of giving them any more hope they can turn the tables.
"You learn a lot from it. That's why experience is experience," Richards said. "You go through many situations.
"It's always, forget as quick as possible and try to remember the good things that we're doing. It was one bad night, but we've been doing a lot of good things in this series."
The Rangers will be without defenseman John Moore. He was suspended for two games yesterday after receiving a match penalty Tuesday night for a hit to the head of Montreal forward Dale Weise.
In last night's game
* At Chicago, Michal Handzus scored 2 minutes into the second overtime and the Blackhawks stayed alive with a 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Kings. LA leads the Western Conference final, 3-2, with Game 6 set for tomorrow night at 9.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles police said they are investigating a battery report from a fan who says Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford sprayed water in his face during Game 4 of the West finals against the Kings at Staples Center.
An LAPD spokeswoman confirmed the investigation for the Associated Press, shortly before last night's Game 5. Crawford did not speak with the media after the team's morning skate.
The report alleges Crawford used a water bottle to spray the face of the heckling fan, who was thrown out of the arena and later filed the complaint with police.