Rangers shut out Canadiens to reach Finals

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) snags a shot on goal by the Montreal Canadiens during the first period in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals, Thursday, May 29, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) snags a shot on goal by the Montreal Canadiens during the first period in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals, Thursday, May 29, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Posted: May 31, 2014

NEW YORK - The New York Rangers, a team that looked beatable before outlasting the Flyers in the opening round, continued their improbable journey Thursday night at frenzied Madison Square Garden.

The Blueshirts, sparked by Dominic Moore's goal and Henrik Lundqvist's goaltending, defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 1-0, and won the Eastern Conference finals, four games to two.

The victory sends New York to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since Mark Messier and Co. won the crown in 1994, ending the Rangers' 54-year drought.

Though not tested much by a subdued Montreal attack, Lundqvist made 18 saves and notched his 42d playoff win, a team record, and he bounced back from a rare subpar performance in Game 5. Long regarded as one of the NHL's top goalies, the 32-year-old Swede will be making the first Finals appearance in his nine-year career.

"Tonight, I don't think I've ever been more determined to win a game," Lundqvist said.

With 4 minutes, 39 seconds left in the second period and the game scoreless, Lundqvist made his best save of the night. Thomas Vanek's close-range shot deflected off New York defenseman Dan Girardi, and Lundqvist made a spinning waffleboard save before the puck could trickle into the net.

"Hen-rik, Hen-rik," Rangers fans shouted.

"Ridiculous," said Marc Staal, one of the defensemen who helped the Rangers keep the Canadiens to the outside. "I owe him a beer."

Montreal looked like a tired team in the third period, which was dominated by the speedy Rangers. With their season on the line, the Canadiens were outshot, 13-5, in the final 20 minutes.

"We felt we lined up better against the Rangers than the Bruins," said Montreal forward Max Pacioretty, whose team upset Boston in the previous round. "We had a letdown."

Montreal failed to connect on a power play that carried into the first 1:47 of the third period, making it 2 for 23 in the series.

Before this year's playoffs, the Rangers were 20-1 in Las Vegas to win the Stanley Cup. When the Finals begin Wednesday, the odds will have been reduced considerably, though the Rangers figure to be underdogs against either Los Angeles or Chicago.

New York, which needed seven games to beat the Flyers and Pittsburgh in the first two rounds, outshot the Habs, 32-18.

The Rangers' fourth line has excelled in the playoffs and it continued its magic in Game 6, giving New York a 1-0 lead late in the second period.

Brian Boyle, skating behind the net, found Moore open in the slot, and the hardworking center beat Tokarski with 1:53 left in the second.

Early in the second, a few seconds after a power play ended, a left-circle shot by New York's Derek Stepan was deflected by Tokarski and bounced off the right post, keeping the game scoreless.

Montreal was on its heels as the Blueshirts dominated a scoreless opening period, outshooting the Canadiens, 11-5.

Tokarski was the reason the game was scoreless until late in the second. The 24-year-old rookie, thrust into action in this series because of Carey Price's injury, made several key saves, including a stop on Mats Zuccarello as he went in on a two-on-one after about 11/2 minutes. He also turned aside Chris Kreider's deflection in front, stopped Zuccarello's shot with his mask, and denied Boyle from point-blank range.

But Tokarski had little help as the Rangers suffocated the Habs attack, and chants of "We want the Cup!" echoed around the arena as the final seconds ticked away.


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

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