Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rangers back in Cup final

NEW YORK—On a night where something special was needed, the N.Y. Rangers produced and the Montreal Canadiens didn’t.
As a consequence, the Rangers are headed to their first Stanley Cup final in 20 years.

The Canadiens, meanwhile, are going home—experiencing a dark cocktail of emotions after falling two wins short.
Dominic Moore scored late in the second period and Henrik Lundqvist made 18 saves as the Rangers nipped Montreal 1-0 last night to win the Eastern Conference final 4-2.
“We played, in my book, probably our best game of the playoffs,” noted Rangers’ head coach Alain Vigneault.
The Canadiens didn’t. New York outshot Montreal 32-18, with the Habs putting just five shots on goal in the third period of a game that was not as close as the score indicated.
It was a night and day compared to the Canadiens’ 7-4 win Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
“It’s tough because we’re so close. And we’re right there,” said Montreal defenceman Josh Gorges.
“I’m a little bit lost for words because I’m still trying to process this,” he admitted.
“I’m still stunned. It’s tough.”
Montreal sniper Max Pacioretty was brutally frank in the wake of the loss.
“A night like tonight, our backs were against the wall,” he noted. “We’ve been in that position before.
“But there in the third period, it almost seemed like—myself especially—guys were panicking,” Pacioretty added.
“We got away from our game.”
New York really had a go at Montreal in the third—buzzing young goalie Dustin Tokarski’s net.
The Canadiens did not get a shot on net for the first nine minutes and were back on their heels the entire period.
“The third period, I think we played our best period of the playoffs,” said Lundqvist.
“When it mattered the most, guys really stepped up.”
While the Canadiens missed passes and made bad decisions, the workmanlike Rangers did the little things right.
Their finishing could have been better but didn’t need to be given Montreal’s sputtering offence.
“We gave them one chance in the first, four in the second, and nothing in the third,” noted Vigneault.
“Shouldn’t have been a 1-0 game, but you have to give their goaltender a lot of credit,” he added.
“He played outstanding.”
So was Lundqvist, who was pulled in the second period of Game 5 after giving up four goals on 19 shots.
He returned to world-class form when he needed to be.
The breakthrough came after the Rangers’ fourth line bottled the Habs up in their own end near the end of the second period.
Boyle, left all alone behind the goal, sent a pass through defenceman Francis Bouillon and Moore snapped a shot past Tokarski on the stick side at 18:07 for his third of the playoffs.
The Rangers’ last appearance in the final was 1994, when they defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games for their first title in 54 years.
The Canadiens have not appeared in the final since 1993, when the dispatched the L.A. Kings in five games.
New York will face either defending champion Chicago or the Kings—both formidable foes—as the final kicks off Wednesday night in the West.
Streamers flew through the air as the final whistle blew. The normally-calm Lundqvist threw his arms in the air and was mobbed by his teammates.
The crowd chanted “We want the Cup.”
With Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis, who won the Cup together a decade ago with Tampa, leading the decision-making process, the Rangers elected not to touch the Prince of Wales Trophy that goes to the Eastern Conference champion.
It’s been quite a journey for the Rangers, who started the season 3-6 on the road as Madison Square Garden underwent massive renovations.
Asked what he would have said if someone had told him in October that his team would go to the Cup final, Vigneault laughed.
“In October?” he asked. “Probably I would have said what are you smoking?”
The win was the 42nd of Lundqvist’s playoff career—moving the 32-year-old past Mike Richter for the franchise lead.
Richter backstopped the Rangers to the ’94 Cup.
It also was his ninth playoff shutout, tying him with Richter for the team lead.
The rest before the Cup final will be welcomed by the Rangers.
They went seven games in each of the previous two rounds—wasting a 3-2 lead against Philadelphia and then rallying from 3-1 down to dispatch the Penguins.

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