Head Coach’s challenge leads to Brass-Trick and game 7 (NYR 7 v TB 3)

Rangers celebrate Sheppard's goal (Photo Scott Audette/Getty Images)

Rangers celebrate Sheppard’s goal (Photo Scott Audette/Getty Images)

Alain Vigneault needed someone to step up in Game 6. In his mind, he knew Henrik Lundqvist would motivate himself as he’s done time and time again. No, this time he needed one of his top two pivots to grab this game by the throat and send this series back to MSG. He needed them to be “difference makers”.

Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan have been two of AV’s more reliable forwards in the post-season. Stepan won Game 7 in OT against the Capitals and Brassard has been one of the team’s top point getters in the playoffs. The challenge was issued and both responded, but one shined.

[su_quote cite=”NY POST” url=”https://nypost.com/2015/05/27/the-challenge-that-turned-derick-brassard-into-a-game-6-hero/”]“The truth is, that I was challenged by my coach in the morning. It wasn’t a spanking, he wasn’t disappointed, and we’ve been working really hard against a lot of good centers, but A.V. said he needed a little bit more from us. “Every time I’ve been challenged like that since I played junior, I always try to come through with more.”[/su_quote]

Brassard was genuinely disappointed on Monday after the Game 5 loss. He even cited losing in the Cup Final last season and how it hit him hard coming into this elimination game. His response was a 3 goal and 5 point night and elevating his linemates to 1 goal and 4 points each.

NYR top line combines for 5 goals and 13 points (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

NYR top line combines for 5 goals and 13 points (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

“We were hungry for the puck,” Brassard said afterwards. He acknowledged the performance of his wingers by saying, “we just made plays.” The line combined for 13 points on the evening and the third period goal bonanza started at 3:02 when J.T. Miller scored his first ever playoff goal.

Before Miller’s tally the Rangers were up 2-1 after the first period on the strength of a Brassard and Keith Yandle goal. Still, it was Henrik Lundqvist who was the hero as he held Tampa to just 1 PP goal on 29 shots through two periods.

Lundqvist’s save of the game came in the first period when he flashed his left pad on a Steven Stamkos tap in while on a man advantage. Had Stamkos scored, the game would have been knotted at 1 and a different outcome possible. “Everything on the line again, and we found a way,” Lundqvist told Blueshirts United. “In the third maybe our experience in these situations helped us because we played extremely well, a smart period.”

The Rangers would score 5 times in the third period and rout the Lightning by a final score of 7-3. After Miller’s goal, James Sheppard would score his first of the playoffs followed by Brassard, Nash and Brassard again to complete the hat-trick.

Tampa would also score twice in the last period but when the Rangers were up by 4 each time. Lundqvist even admitted to letting his mind wander to game 7 which will be this Friday at MSG.

“In the third period, with our season on the line, we probably played our best period of this series so far,” Vigneault explained. “We wanted a chance and now we have a chance.” Yes, the Rangers have a chance to win another huge Game 7 and the reward…a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final.


Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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