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The same recipe still serves the Rangers

PITTSBURGH- The New York Rangers again trailed by two goals and faced elimination. This time, adversity hit them in a hostile environment at PPG Paints Arena. Two days earlier, the situation was the same in a tense Madison Square Garden.

Their resilience allowed them to respond again to save their season, another time.

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For the second straight game in their first-round series, the Rangers came from behind and avoided elimination with a 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 on Friday.

Game 7 will take place on Sunday at the Garden. Rangers didn’t steal it, emulating what they’ve done throughout the season.

“We really are like a big family, supported the center Mika Zibanejad. Everyone wants the same thing. Everyone works for each other. Everyone wants the guy sitting next to them to be successful. This is one of the big reasons why we are here today. We’ve demonstrated that all year and on this show, and it’s something that doesn’t just happen. It’s something special that we have in this group and it has to continue. »

Igor Shesterkin continued to do the job even though he is playing in the most hostile environment he has probably ever experienced in hockey, an environment that got the better of him in Games 3 and 4. He had been taken out of those two games, allowing 10 goals on 45 shots.

Shesterkin, a Vezina Trophy and Hart Trophy finalist this season, managed to keep a cool head despite the 18,342 fans chanting his name to distract him, making 31 saves, including 20 of 21 shots in the first period.

“It’s very difficult,” admitted Shesterkin. They try to play me in the head, but I tried to stay focused. When they shouted ‘Igor’, I was like ‘OK’. »

Shesterkin doesn’t need to say more for Rangers to believe in him.

Coach Gerard Gallant wasted no time after the stinging 7-2 loss in Game 4 to indicate that Shesterkin would be back in net for Game 5. His teammates never lost faith in him no more.

“It’s Igor, he’s a competitor, he’s been all year for us, he’s been at all the levels he’s played,” said the striker. Chris Kreider. He gives everything he has. He’s been our best player all year and he continues to be. »

Another of Rangers’ best players has also stepped up.

Zibanejad had yet to find the back of the net heading into Game 6. He scored on the power play at 5:05 to put the Rangers on the board in the second period. Then he put it back 71 seconds to tie the game 2-2.

Video: NYR@PIT #6: Zibanejad scores his playoff debut

Those two goals took a ton of pressure off Zibanejad’s shoulders.

“He feels a lot better, no doubt about it,” Gallant said. Mika puts a lot of pressure on himself, he hates to see a little ‘minus-2’ next to his name before the game, but you have to be able to calm down and play your way. Have fun, Mika. Go play and don’t worry about the players on the other team, worry about your game.

“He is an excellent player. It allowed us to be successful throughout the year. He was flying over the ice tonight. He showed up to play. »

Zibanejad came close to a natural hat-trick four minutes after making it 2-2. He took advantage of a breakaway coming out of the penalty box, but he hit the horizontal bar head-on. The Rangers had just sold out a 5-against-3.

Returning to the bench, Zibanejad asked for the iPad to view the replay. Kreider grabbed the iPad and threw it to the floor behind him.

“He was watching his breakaway and I heard him start to wonder what fake he could have done,” Kreider said. I didn’t like that. He clearly beat the keeper, but he hit the post. No need to question yourself. »

Kreider wanted Zibanejad to buy some time at this point. But that moment also defined Rangers and their resilience.

They don’t question themselves. Not after a 7-2 loss like in Game 4, not after trailing 2-0 in Game 5 and again in Game 6.

Rangers have won 27 games coming from behind in the regular season. The only time they suffered three straight losses in regulation time was during the last week of the season, when their playoff spot was already assured.

What they did in this series to force a Game 7 is exactly what they did all season long.

“Good coaches, good young people, good veterans, a good locker room, summed up Kreider. We’ve been able to come together in difficult times over the course of the year, over the past two years. We come a long way. Despite the situation, I’m proud of the way this team competes. »

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