(SportsNetwork.com) - The first Game 7 of the second round is on tap for Tuesday, as the New York Rangers visit the Pittsburgh Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center for the decisive battle of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Pittsburgh once held a 3-1 lead in the series, but the Rangers staved off elimination in Games 5 and 6 to set up a final clash for the right to play in the conference finals. The Penguins are aiming for a second straight berth in the East finals, while New York is hoping to return to the third round for the second time in three postseasons.
Pittsburgh is 7-6 all-time in Game 7s and the Rangers are 7-5. The Penguins are just 2-6 when hosting a seventh game, while New York is just 1-5 as the road team in this situation.
At the center of New York's series comeback has been Rangers forward Martin St. Louis, who lost his mother to a heart attack on Thursday but managed to play in Friday's 5-1 victory in Pittsburgh. St. Louis then played a big role in Sunday's Game 6 triumph, scoring the first goal of the contest to help his team earn an essential win on Mother's Day.
St. Louis and Carl Hagelin scored within a three-minute span early in Sunday's contest, while Henrik Lundqvist made 36 saves to anchor the 3-1 victory. Derick Brassard recorded the other tally for the Rangers.
"We wanted a chance and we have given ourselves that chance," said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. "It is what it is. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Lundqvist is 9-2 in his last 11 elimination games with a 1.35 goals against average and .955 save percentage. He hopes to further improve that win/loss record on Tuesday to get his team back to the East finals after the Rangers lost to New Jersey in the third round of the 2012 postseason.
The Swedish backstop is 4-1 with a 1.00 GAA in Game 7s.
New York's star goaltender did receive a $5,000 fine from the league after Game 6. Lundqvist was fined for unsportsmanlike conduct after spraying Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby with his water bottle during a scrum at the end of the second period and was
Brandon Sutter provided the lone offense for the Penguins on Sunday. Pittsburgh netminder Marc-Andre Fleury struggled at times, taking the loss after stopping 26 shots.
St. Louis scored just 3:34 into Game 6 to stake New York to a 1-0 lead. Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman wristed a shot from the high slot that was stopped by Fleury. The puck then hit off the skate of Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Niskanen in front of the crease and trickled to Derek Stepan, who caromed a backhand shot off of St. Louis and into the net for a lead.
"It was Mother's Day. My dad's here, my sister's here, it's been a tough time for my whole family ... it was a good moment," said an emotional St. Louis, still battling through the sudden death of his mother on Friday.
New York road the wave of emotion from that point on with Hagelin scoring the eventual game-winner less than three minutes later.
"When he scored, on the bench you could see everyone jumping around," said teammate Derick Brassard of the St. Louis goal. "After that we really took off."
After getting blown out in Game 5 and falling behind early on Sunday, the Pens know they need to get off to a better start in Game 7.
"It's pretty clear, we didn't show up," Crosby said. The last two games our starts have hurt us, again tonight. We knew it was something we had to improve and we didn't. We paid the price for it. Hopefully, next game we learn those lessons."
Although Crosby has just one goal in this postseason, Pittsburgh's captain has added eight assists over his team's 12 games. Crosby has two goals and one assist in three lifetime Game 7 appearances.
Fellow superstar forward Evgeni Malkin, who lead Pittsburgh with 13 points on six goals and seven assists this spring, had no goals and three assists over three career Game 7s.
Tuesday's clash marks the first-ever Game 7 between the Penguins and Rangers. In fact, prior to Sunday, the teams only played one previous Game 6 -- the Patrick Division finals, a 5-1 Pittsburgh victory at Mellon Arena to close out that series on May 13, 1992
Pittsburgh is 4-0 all-time in postseason series against the Rangers, who finished second in the Metropolitan Division this season -- 13 points behind the division champion Penguins.
New York also has never come back from down 3-1 to win a series. In 16 previous playoff series the Rangers trailed three games to one, the franchise never rallied to win, and only reached a Game 7 once until this season, in 1939 against the Bruins before losing that contest in triple overtime .
The winner of tonight's game in the Steel City will face either Boston or Montreal in the East finals. The Bruins and Habs also are tied at three games apiece and Boston will host Game 7 on Wednesday.