Rangers' resiliency sets up Game 7 vs. Penguins: 'We’ve given ourselves an opportunity'

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Rangers celebrate in Game 6 vs. Pittsburgh group shot
Rangers celebrate in Game 6 vs. Pittsburgh group shot

For the past two games against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers have had their backs against the wall. But facing elimination and down 3-1 in the series, the Blueshirts have proven their resilience, winning Games 5 and 6 to force a winner-take-all Game 7 at the Garden on Sunday.

The Rangers held an optional skate on Saturday, but as head coach Gerard Gallant expressed, all eyes are focused on Sunday’s deciding game.

“Game 7 is huge for us and now we’ve got to make sure we finish it off tomorrow and play the right way, but we’ve given ourselves an opportunity and worked hard to get back,” Gallant said. “I think everybody’s really excited.

“Today’s a good rest day for most people. We’re going to have a light skate out there with some of the guys, but their optional skates and it’s a big game for sure. It’s a lot of fun, looking forward to it. [I’ve] been involved in a few of those over the years and they’re fun.”

Gallant s that he’s not worried about his team’s mindset for Game 7, and with good reasoning. The Rangers have faced win-or-go-home atmospheres in each of their last two contests, and they’ve prevailed by identical 5-3 scores in each.

“We approached the last two games as Game 7s. Really, we had to win those games,” said Gallant. “They were must-wins and we found a way to win those hockey games, so tomorrow’s no different: you lose, you go home.

“We’ve had two Game 7s, the last two for me.”

In Game 6, the Rangers were led by their veterans, as Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider each scored twice, with Andrew Copp icing the game with an empty-netter.

The Rangers will obviously rely on their veterans once again in Game 7, but it’s also a great opportunity for younger players like Alexis Lafreniere to gain some experience.

“You grow up and you watch the playoffs and Game 7s are usually really fun to watch,” Lafreniere said on Saturday, “so to actually be able to play in one is a privilege and I’ll try to enjoy every moment.”