Penguins coach Dan Bylsma Monday called his team's wins in Games 3 and 4 of their second-round playoff series and the New York Rangers' Games 5 and 6 wins "almost mirror opposites of each other."
There is little question that, after falling behind in the series, 3-1, something changed for the Rangers -- a few things, even -- that helped them come back and force Game 7 tonight at Consol Energy Center.
For one thing, the Rangers seemed to have recovered from a draining stretch of six games in nine days that coach Alain Vigneault called "stupid." They also got winger Chris Kreider back from injury in Game 4, and he had a goal and an assist in Game 5.
The biggest thing, though, was the way the Rangers came together to support winger Martin St. Louis, whose mother died Thursday.
"It's awful," New York center Brad Richards said. "But to try to make something out of something so awful, it was a good moment for us to say, 'Wow, this [series deficit] isn't that big of a deal, this big mountain that's facing us. We have a teammate going through that. Let's just put everything on the line and rally around that and have some fun doing it and realize how lucky we are to be in the playoffs and playing hockey.'
"We kind of took that attitude. We'd all rather Marty have his mom back and not have to rally around that, but, when something hits you like that, sometimes you find different ways to use it as something to help the group."
St. Louis has not missed a game, brought his father and sister to Madison Square Garden for Game 6and scored the first goal in that 3-1 Mother's Day win.
"You want to stick together when things get tough," Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "[Sunday] night was very special for many reasons. Such an important game and a big win, but, for Marty and what he's been through, it's definitely a game you'll remember."
The Penguins noticed the shift in the Rangers.
"We're well aware of those things," center Sidney Crosby said. "It certainly can give a team a boost. A lot of different things can happen. But I think when a team's down, 3-1, regardless of those things, they automatically rally and become pretty desperate anyway."
Malkin accents positives
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin was asked what he would say if he were to address his teammates before the game tonight.
"I have experience. I've played a lot of Game 7s -- Detroit, Washington," Malkin said. "I would just say, 'Play your game, relax, enjoy it. We're playing at home, big crowd. Have fun.' "
Change in lines? Perhaps
Since late in the first round against Columbus, Bylsma has fairly regularly used a top line that combines Crosby and Malkin with left winger Chris Kunitz. Bylsma hinted after Game 6 that he might revert to Crosby and Malkin each centering a line. Crosby said either formation is fine.
"We have to be our best," he said. "If we're put together, we know that we've got to create things, and, if we're not, we still have to create things. It really doesn't change anything."
Not unusual conversation
Penguins owner and Hall of Fame center Mario Lemieux spoke with Crosby after Game 6, but it wasn't anything out of the ordinary despite the situation.
"We didn't really talk about anything different than we would [halfway through] the season," Crosby said. "We talk after games when he's down in the [locker] room. I don't think there was anything different there. He's definitely got a pretty good understanding of being under pressure. If anyone understands, sometimes it's nice to not talk about it at all. I think he can appreciate that, too."
Lundqvist was fined $5,000 by the NHL, apparently for squirting Crosby in the face with his water bottle in Game 6. ... Asked if he would rather have the team that won Games 5 and 6 or the one that gets Game 7 at home, Bylsma said: "Wow. That's such a Joe Vitale question. He always has something crazy like this."
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.