- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault did not call out any of his top players by name.
But if the Rangers are going to win their Game 7 matchup with the Flyers on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden and advance to Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Vigneault believes his team's highly paid stars need to outperform Philadelphia's.
“Whatever happened in the past is behind us,” Vigneault said. “It’s one game, and it’s winner-take-all. I think it’s fair to say that whoever’s top players perform the best is probably the team that is going to win this game. We’ve got some good players. This is a great opportunity. Game 7, it doesn’t get a lot better than this. We’re going to be ready.”
While center Brad Richards ($6.7 million, six points) and right winger Martin St. Louis ($5.6 million, six points) have elevated their games throughout the series, left winger Rick Nash ($7.8 million, no goals) and defenseman Ryan McDonagh ($4.7 million, no points, minus-2) could be better.
“Rick is trying his best right now. He’s looking for holes, he’s protecting the puck,” Vigneault said. “He got a couple of good looks last night. [There’s] nothing he an do about the first six [games]. He’s got to focus tonight.”
As for McDonagh, Vigneault said, “He's obviously been our best defenseman all year. He's played some good hockey so far in this series, but I do believe there's another level. He needs to find that for us tonight.”
New York has quickly forgotten about its 5-2 loss to Philadelphia at Wells Fargo Center in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
“These opportunities only come around so often, and that's what we mean by embracing it,” said Richards, who is 3-0 in Game 7s as a Ranger, with one goal. “There's going to be some day when this whole team will be retired, and we'll be sitting back and wishing that we had another day like this where you could get ready for another big game like this in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden in a must-win game. This is the greatest thing about what we do.”
Vigneault would not reveal if there would be any lineup changes.
“You’ll find out tonight,” he said.
New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist is 3-1 with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .963 save percentage in four career Game 7s.
The Rangers are 5-0 all-time in Game 7s at MSG, but the Flyers have won their past three.
“You’ve just got to go out and play,” Vigneault said. “You can’t overthink. You can’t overanalyze. They know us well, [and] we know them well. They’re going to go out and play, and we’re going to go out and play.”
New York is just 3-for-28 on the power play in the series (10.7 percent).
“Execution. That’s all it is,” Vigneault said.
Just about seven hours before the opening faceoff, the Rangers seemed ready and raring to go
“These are the games that you want to play when you’re a kid,” St. Louis said. “I’ve been fortunate to be in a few of them. They’re exciting.”
• Rangers center Dominic Moore was named one of three finalists for the Masterson Trophy, which exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, perseverance and dedication to hockey. New Jersey Devils right winger Jaromir Jagr and Carolina Hurricanes center Manny Malhotra are the others.
Moore left the NHL in the spring of 2012 to be with his wife Katie, who passed away from liver cancer at the age of 32. Moore would go on to establish a foundation in her name, come back and have a very successful season with the Rangers. He has notched two goals and an assist so far against the Flyers.
E:60's piece on Moore is a must-watch.
45mPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald