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Wild comeback in a series emblematic of Rangers’ robust season

That Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Penguins has become a microcosm of the entire Rangers season.

Every time they’ve been tallied, Rangers have defied the odds. Every time the uphill battle seemed too steep, Rangers still made it to the top. Their resilience, dedication to a team game and talent for finding ways to create wins has got Rangers to this point – and all of that must come through as they battle for anything and everything for a Game 7 on the ice on Sunday Night at Madison Square Garden.

“We approached the last two games as Game 7,” head coach Gerard Gallant said after Saturday’s practice, referring to how Rangers avoided elimination in Games 5 and 6 after falling 3-1 in the series was. “Really, we had to win these games, they had to be won, and we found a way to win these hockey games. So tomorrow will be no different.

“If you lose, you go home, so just keep trying to play and win hockey games, and then you can move on.”

The Rangers celebrate their Game 6 win over the Penguins.
Rangers have been resilient all season.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

There is no bigger stage than this. The Pinwheel Deck at the Garden hasn’t looked down on a Rangers Game 7 to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals since May 29, 2015, when the Lightning gave them their first loss under such circumstances. That’s right: Rangers have lost just one Game 7 at home ice in franchise history.

This Rangers team’s job is to keep that number at one in the loss column. It’s a tall order for a team coming into their first postseason in five years, but one the Blueshirts have proven all season long they can handle.

Anyone who’s watched Rangers this season knows that collecting from behind has become a signature trait of theirs. In an 82-game regular season, Rangers recorded 27 (27!) wins from behind. And with Summer just minutes away in Games 5 and 6 and staring at a two-goal deficit, Rangers did what they did best and found ways to keep their spectacular season alive.

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“I think we’re not giving up,” said Alexis Lafreniere, who described playing in Game 7 as a privilege. “Our character is really special. We were down in both games, we never quit or stopped playing as a team. That’s really good for us. As long as we play as such a team, I think we have a good chance of winning.”

While the rallies have kept things fun and interesting, the Rangers can’t push their luck any further. A few goals down will eventually catch them up and in a Game 7 against an experienced club like Penguins, Rangers shouldn’t take the risk.

Igor Shesterkin makes a save during the Rangers' Game 6 win over the Penguins.
Igor Shesterkin makes a save during the Rangers’ Game 6 win over the Penguins.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

How often can they dig themselves out of early holes? How often can they count on goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin to bail them out? How many comebacks do Rangers have in them?

We were able to find out on Sunday evening. But if Rangers are to line up with significant confidence – not just going into Round 2, but going into the foreseeable future – Game 7 has to be a crucial win.

Whether or not Penguins star Sidney Crosby is playing. Whether or not Pittsburgh’s No. 1 goaltender Tristan Jarry is playing. It’s up to the Rangers and the Rangers alone to seize this opportunity.

“As long as we finish it right, I don’t care,” Gallant said. “It’s all about winning the hockey game. We had some difficult starts on the road, no doubt, but we had some really good starts here. So I’m not worried about that.”

https://nypost.com/2022/05/14/wild-comeback-in-series-symbolic-of-rangers-resilient-season/ Wild comeback in a series emblematic of Rangers’ robust season

JOE HERNANDEZ

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