- Last Updated: 10:20 AM, April 24, 2012
- Posted: 3:51 AM, April 24, 2012
KANATA, Ont. — There will be a day after tomorrow for the Rangers, a Game 7 on Thursday at Madison Square Garden against the Senators, and it’s all because the Blueshirts played last night’s Game 6 as if there were no tomorrow.
“We need to spend [today] focused on what we did in this one and dedicate ourselves to playing with the same intensity and relentlessness in Game 7 that we brought to the rink in this one,” Brad Richards told The Post after the Rangers knotted the series at three-all with a re-identifying 3-2 victory through which the club fought for every inch of ice and refused to turn the other cheek.
“We didn’t play the same way the first five games of the series when we didn’t have to win and that put us in a hell of a spot,” the 2004 Conn Smythe winner said after an imposing performance in which he recorded a goal and assist. “Playing this way and winning this game does us no good if we’re not committed to the same mindset on Thursday.”
Richards led exactly as the Rangers have expected since July 2, when he signed on for his Broadway tour. Henrik Lundqvist was magnificent throughout, holding the Senators to one goal until a disputed score with 39 seconds to play.
Derek Stepan, Brandon Dubinsky, Chris Kreider, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal were outstanding and the power play scored twice to ignite a three-goal explosion within a span of 10:24 of the second period after the club had been shut out the previous 145:27.
But even as this was a collective Black-and-Blueshirt revival, no Ranger played a more important role than Brandon Prust, who was a man possessed from his first shift, getting in Senators’ faces, throwing checks at every opportunity (even one slightly after the whistle when he crushed Erik Karlsson into the wall at 13:08 of the first following an offside) and dropping the gloves with Chris Neil at 15:10 of the first after the Ottawa hit-man declined his invitation 2:34 into the match.
“Prustie does it for us all year, but what he did for us tonight was unbelievable,” said Richards. “We didn’t want to let him down.
“We talked about it [after the first period]. I love the guy.”
Prust got the worst of it in the fight, but that hardly mattered in the wake of his willingness to put an end to the nonsense by taking on the headhunter who had concussed Brian Boyle in Game 5 on Saturday with a blow codified as legal by the NHL’s unfortunately named “Department of Player Safety.”
“Down 1-0, I just wanted to get the guys going,” said Prust, who then admitted, “A little of both,” when asked if he might have been responding to previous acts.
“I just wanted to keep crashing and banging and maybe they’d come get me.”
Even playing with heightened commitment, the Rangers trailed 1-0 almost halfway into the match after Neil’s power-play deflection in front at 7:05 of the first.
But Stepan finally broke through, converting Richards’ back-door feed to the left porch at 8:55. Richards sent a five-on-three scorcher past Craig Anderson at 17:08. And Kreider scored the club’s first five-on-five goal since early in the third period of Game 2 at 19:19 to send the Rangers into the second intermission up 3-1.
“You could feel everyone get confidence when we got that first power play goal,” said Lundqvist, whose sensational sliding save on Daniel Alfredsson at the left post off a three-on-two at 12:09 of the second preserved what was a 1-1 tie. “Everything had been so tight, but that gave us a boost.”
All the way to Game 7 at the Garden the day after tomorrow.