New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault thought he would not have winger Martin St. Louis for Game 5 against the Penguins on Friday night at Consol Energy Center.
Suggested as much, actually. But St. Louis, whose mother, France St. Louis, died Thursday, wanted to play, and he did.
“The fact that Marty decided to come back, that says a lot about him, but it also says a lot about our group — our guys care,” Vigneault said before the game.
St. Louis got word of his mother’s death when the Rangers landed Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh. There was no cause of death made public, but it’s believed it was unexpected. She was 63.
St. Louis, 38, was sent home to Montreal, and the rest of the team went to its hotel on what Vigneault described as “a very, very quiet bus ride.”
Later Thursday night, Vigneault spoke with St. Louis.
“At the end of the day, my message to him was that there are more important things than hockey,” Vigneault said. “You have to do what’s right — take care of your dad, etc.”
Friday morning, however. St. Louis and his father decided that his mother would want her son to play, Vigneault said, so St. Louis returned to Pittsburgh by late afternoon.
“It’s really devastating for his family, for him, especially at a time like this in the season,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “I send all my sympathy.”
Penguins center Sidney Crosby got to know St. Louis when they played together at the Sochi Olympics.
“It’s tough,” Crosby said. “You never like to hear news like that. He’s a great guy and he competes hard. I’m sure it’s not easy. We’re definitely thinking about him.”
Crosby got a chance to shake St. Louis’ hand and offer condolences when the two crossed paths as Crosby was arriving at the arena before the game.
Orpik out — again
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was out of the lineup again for Game 5. He returned in Game 4 after missing five games because of an unspecified injury, but left that game after apparently injuring his right knee in the first period.
That meant that Robert Bortuzzo, who filled in for Orpik in his previous absence, returned to the lineup Friday.
“He played outstanding for us when he stepped into the lineup,” Letang said. “He gets under the opponents’ skin. He hits hard, plays hard.”
Before the game, Bortuzzo said he was impressed with the way the five remaining defensemen handled things for the final two periods Wednesday and that he was fully prepared to get back in the lineup.
It’s a cliche that players who are out of the lineup are at the ready to step in and play with any sort of notice. Coach Dan Bylsma said that’s true, but there’s a caveat when it’s the postseason.
“The playoffs is a little bit faster game. It’s a little bit harder game. It’s a more intense game,” Bylsma said. “The players that have not played, if the step in, they are ready to play.
“That’s really not too difficult thing to do. They’re practicing and being ready. It’s more [a concern about] being too keyed up, too emotional in stepping on the ice.”
Crosby on Crosby
Before Crosby got his first goal of the postseason in Game 3, he was asked daily about not scoring and whether he was dealing with an undisclosed injury. That suddenly subsided once he scored, but he claimed not to notice.
“I don’t keep track of the questions; I just try to answer them,” he said.
Crosby also shrugged off the widespread speculation on social media and elsewhere that he was hiding an injury — speculation that also has died off.
“It’s playoffs, and you have to deal with that stuff,” he said.
Asked before Game 5 if he felt better than he did in the first round against Columbus, Crosby responded more about his game than his health.
“I think I’ve been able to generate a little bit more,” he said. “I don’t know if I feel that much different.”
Although rising temperatures and humidity levels can affect ice quality in NHL arenas as the playoffs unfold, Bylsma said, “I haven’t noticed any difference in the ice between now and earlier in the season.” … Penguins prospect Derrick Pouliot is a finalist for the Canadian (Junior) Hockey League defenseman of the year. Pouliot had 17 goals, 70 points in the regular season and was named the Western Hockey League defenseman of the year.
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.