Jaromir Jagr wears the 'C' on his chest and his heart on his sleeve.
There was no denying that the New York Rangers' latest tough loss in Buffalo still stung the captain Saturday, but he and his teammates still believe they can bounce back against the President's Trophy-winning Sabres.
Jagr showed less of his jovial side Saturday, just over 12 hours after New York lost the lead with 7.7 seconds left in regulation and then fell 2-1 in overtime Friday night. That left the Rangers in a 3-2 series hole, knowing they would need another two-game winning streak against top-seeded Buffalo to reach the Eastern Conference finals.
By the time he left the locker room after practice Saturday, he was flashing the familiar smile that has been on his face since the Rangers made their late-season run to get into the playoffs and through a first-round sweep of Atlanta.
He asked around for someone to tell him a joke or a funny story, like the ones he so often relays as he cuts, tapes, and lights his stick blades on fire to dry newly added black spray paint before games.
When told to cheer up, Jagr replied, ``Easy for you to say.'' This time the smile and laughs came along with it.
``Sometimes young guys look to guys who have been there before to see what kind of mood is it OK for me to have today,'' said Brendan Shanahan, a three-time Stanley Cup champion said. ``Our message from the get-go was we had to show up, forgetting about the last game and moving on - concentrating and excited about the opportunity.
``Once again, most people think that we're done. After the way that game went, most people probably said, 'Good fight, but they're done.' We have an opportunity, starting with our home game in Game 6 to kind of do what we've done all year, which is sneak up on people and prove them wrong.''
The Rangers are the only team in this year's playoffs to win each of their home games, and they will put their 4-0 mark on the line Sunday. Another win at Madison Square Garden forces the series back to Buffalo for Game 7 on Tuesday. Home-ice advantage has carried through the first five games.
Oddsmakers have made New York -110 money line (NHL Odds) favorites for todays game, the over/under has been set at 5 total goals (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 52% of bets for this game have been placed on Buffalo +100 (View NHL Bet Percentages).
Buffalo already has had its first two-game losing streak since March in this series. The sixth-seeded Rangers will have to hand them another to pull off the upset.
``We've been challenged a few times this year, and every time we've responded with some really big games. Once again, we were able to do that,'' Sabres forward Daniel Briere said. ``It just makes us believe that we can respond to big challenges, that we're not afraid, that we're not a team that's going to collapse when the game's on the line, when the series is on the line.''
Wiping away the bad thoughts of their blown lead in Game 5 might prove to be the toughest task for the Rangers.
Chris Drury tied the game in the closing seconds, after New York broke the scoreless deadlock 3 minutes earlier, and Maxim Afinogenov bounced back from a benching to score the winning power-play goal at 4:39 of overtime.
``The mind-set is that we've proven to ourselves that we can win this series,'' Shanahan said. ``Part of being a good professional, if you are in sports, is selectively having a short memory for certain things. You have to do that.
``It's important for all of us to come here today with a smile on our face and kind of light on our feet and not carrying a heavy weight or burden throughout the day. I think we've done that. We had a pretty good practice, it was chipper. None of our coaching staff or management or players, are walking around here sulking or pointing fingers.''
History says a Rangers comeback is very unlikely.
New York has won only one of 12 series after failing behind 3-2 with a Game 5 loss. The Rangers bucked that trend in 1994 by rallying for two straight victories over New Jersey to advance to the Cup finals.
``We found a way to win, which is big for us,'' Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said. ``It's a pivotal game and we'll look to play our best hockey on the road.''
Only 38 of 193 teams that dropped Game 5 in a 2-2 series have come back to win the final two games. If the Rangers pull it off, they will be the sixth club to win a seventh game on the road after the home team took the first six.
But goalie Henrik Lundqvist wasn't ready yet to look that far ahead.
``We have a real big game coming up (Sunday),'' he said. ``It's obviously a must-win or the season is over.''
by: Gary Roberts - theSpread.com - Email Us
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