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Rangers Know the Stakes Going into Game 7

The Rangers have never lost a home Game Seven

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP
    Celebrations will only get bigger if the Rangers can come through on Thursday night.

    The last time the Rangers played a Game Seven at Madison Square Garden, the night ended with one of the most joyful noises ever heard in a sports arena.

    That was 1994, of course, and the opponent that night was the Canucks. Fifty-four years of disappointments, heartbreaks and tears were wiped away in 60 minutes, and anyone who saw that will never forget it.

    Getting back to the top of the mountaintop this year is going to take another Game Seven win. The Rangers and Senators skate on Thursday night with no more margin for error in their seasons.

    The stakes are clear: You win or you stop playing.

    While the downside of a loss is tremendous, there's something pretty refreshing about the mindset of a Game Seven. There's nothing to keep in reserve and no reason to save the bullets in your gun because there isn't a tomorrow unless you play the most urgent game of your life.

    Given the way the Rangers responded to the same terms in Game Six, there's not much reason to worry about their ability to come up with the intensity that the moment requires. The bigger issue is figuring out which player is going to step up and make the plays that the Rangers need to win the game.

    Marian Gaborik has been almost invisible in this series, but the team could really use the kind of performance he gave them all season. When Gaborik is in front of the net and the Rangers have the puck, the chances of something good happening go up exponentially.

    Brad Richards was brought to New York to win games just like this and he made good on that expectation by being perhaps the best player on the ice during the crucial second period of Game Six. He's risen to the moment all season -- Richards was one of the team leaders in game-winning goals -- and it feels like he's got a little bit more left in that tank.

    Ryan Callahan was the other leader in game winners and captains are the kinds of players that you look to for Game Seven heroics. These three have been the most important forwards on the team all season and it is almost impossible to think the Rangers will win if one of them doesn't step up in a major way.

    And, then, of course, there's Henrik Lundqvist. He's been everything the Rangers have needed him to be all season and he'll need to be at the same level again on Thursday night.

    He's the safest bet of the four, but it won't be enough to just put everything on Lundqvist's shoulders. The Rangers need their stars to play like it to keep the hope of another epic Garden Party alive.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.