By their own admission, the Rangers’ Game 5 performance was as disjointed an effort as they have authored this season.
But needing just one win in order to advance to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup Final since 1994, the Rangers believe playing Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals in the Garden will provide a necessary antiseptic.
“[It’s] an amazing opportunity to clinch a game to go to the Stanley Cup Final in front of your home crowd,” Brad Richards said during the Rangers’ media availability Wednesday in Montreal. “I think everybody is alert and ready that way. We were talking about it all day how excited we were to get on the ice and start playing.”
The Rangers lead the best-of-seven series 3-2. But in order to qualify for the final, it is imperative the Rangers are significantly better than they were in a wild 7-4 loss in Game 5.
For a team that prides itself on its own-zone play, the Rangers had a complete defensive breakdown Tuesday night. Twelve Canadiens finished with at least one point, led by Andrei Markov and Rene Bourque, who had three points each.
The defensive disintegration prompted head coach Alain Vigneault to lift Henrik Lundqvist for Cam Talbot midway through the second period. Lundqvist allowed four goals on 19 shots. Talbot surrendered two goals on eight shots, and David Desharnais potted an empty netter to finish the rout.
“Last night didn’t look great,” Dan Girardi said. “But we all feel great about where we are here in the playoffs and we still have a great opportunity going into [Thursday] night to finish it off here. We have to look at it that way. Win a game at home, and go to the Stanley Cup Final.
“I think no matter how the game before goes, you have to have a short-term memory in the playoffs. The great thing about this game is we’re able to come back one night later and be able to right the ship and forget about everything. That’s what we’re going to have to do is kind of forget about that one, travel home and come ready tomorrow morning for a good skate.”
The Rangers professed no concern about Lundqvist, who had been pulled from the 5-2 loss to the Flyers in Game 6 of the Metropolitan Division semifinal. Lundqvist rebounded in Game 7 of that series with a 24-save effort in the 2-1 win.
“You see how competitive he is, and that’s not going to sit well. Even when he plays good, he’s focused,” Richards said. “I would imagine we’re going to see one of his better performances, especially going back to his crowd and wanting to rebound from that. It’s not something we’ll have to worry about. We always know he’ll regroup.”
While the Rangers are confident in Lundqvist, they will enter Game 6 without defenseman John Moore, who was suspended for two games for his blindside elbow to Canadiens’ right wing Dale Weise.
Moore was assessed a match penalty for the hit, which Vigneault thought was a sufficient penalty.
“I know the league standard very well because of the [Aaron] Rome hit a couple years ago in the Boston series against my former team in Vancouver, [in Game 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final] and it doesn’t meet the league standard as far as a late hit,” Vigneault said. “It was a hit that Johnny caught him a little high in the chest, [and Weise] didn’t see it coming. It probably warrants the penalty that was given on the ice. Other than that, I don’t see what else it could warrant, but I’ve been surprised before. We’ll see what happens.
“Well, the player didn’t see him coming, obviously, but [Weise] was admiring his pass a little bit. Unfortunately, it was a hit and because of the force of the hit, the head seemed to snap back a little bit. But as far as what I know about league standards and from what I heard from the [Brandon] Prust hit where the dynamics of the hit changed because [Derek] Stepan was hurt, I don’t see that at this time right now.”
Whereas the Rangers will not have a regular, the Canadiens will be able to add one to their lineup. Michel Therrien told reporters at the Canadiens’ practice facility in Brossard, Quebec, that Prust will draw back into the lineup after sitting out Games 4 and 5 for his blindside hit on Stepan in Game 3, which left the Rangers center with a broken jaw.
Therrien said he “didn’t see” Weise at the practice session, and noted defenseman Alexei Emelin will travel with the team to New York for Game 6. Emelin was scratched in Game 5.
Carcillo to meet over appeal
Rangers’ left wing Dan Carcillo will have an in-person appeal of his 10-game suspension Friday morning with Commissioner Gary Bettman at the league’s Midtown office.
Carcillo was automatically suspended for forearming linesman Scott Driscoll in the face in the first period of the Rangers’ 3-2 loss in Game 3. According to Rule 40.3 Physical Abuse of Officials, Category II, “Any player who deliberately applies physical force to an official in any manner (excluding actions as set out in Category I), which physical force is applied without intent to injure, or who spits on an official, shall be automatically suspended for not less than 10 games.”
Carcillo, who has practiced with the team while serving the suspension, has been a useful contributor since being acquired from the Kings on Jan. 4 for a seventh-round pick. In 31 regular season games, he recorded three goals and 43 penalty minutes. In eight Stanley Cup playoff games, Carcillo has two goals and 22 penalty minutes.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.