NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have advanced to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1994.
The Blueshirts dominated the Montreal Canadiens from start to finish, knocking off the Habs 1-0 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
Henrik Lundqvist, who bounced back after being pulled in Game 5, recorded a shutout with 18 saves on the night, including one of the spectacular stops of the postseason.
For all the hype and histrionics the series has produced, the Habs actually went out quietly in their series-ending defeat. Lacking the sort of desperation and urgency they displayed in abundance in Game 5, the Canadiens looked strangely passive as the Rangers stifled them with a relentless offensive attack, though plucky young netminder Dustin Tokarski deserved a better fate for his brilliant 31-save effort.
The Rangers, who won a Stanley Cup championship in their last visit to the finals, await the winner of the Western Conference finals, with the Los Angeles Kings leading the series 3-2 against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Let’s see that again: And the save of the night went to Lundqvist, who made a jaw-dropping, acrobatic stop to rob Montreal’s Thomas Vanek at 4:45 of the second period. Lundqvist had the presence of mind to drop his stick in order to make a spinning, backhanded swat of the puck, leaving the Garden crowd in absolute awe. Lundqvist bounced back from a rough outing in Game 5, when he was pulled from the net after surrendering four goals on 18 shots.
Plenty Moore: Dominic Moore, who had a strong series against the Canadiens, notched the game’s only goal by burying a brilliant feed from linemate Brian Boyle with 1:53 remaining in the second period.
The 33-year-old veteran delivered a pair of sensational assists in Game 1 against the Habs and was the first to get one past 24-year-old Tokarski Thursday night. Moore also was pivotal in providing depth and experience down the middle this series, with both Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan missing time.
Boo Birds: Remember when Brandon Prust used to be a beloved fan favorite? Yeah, neither did anyone else at MSG Thursday night.
The crowd booed the former Blueshirt every time he touched the puck, even when he lined up for the odd faceoff. That sort of vitriol was sparked when Prust’s blindside hit in Game 3 broke the jaw of his former teammate Derek Stepan.
Prust returned Thursday after serving a two-game suspension for the hit, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety deemed late. Prust even started for the Habs on a line with Lars Eller and Rene Bourque, lining up against the Rangers’ fourth line for the opening faceoff, but no rough stuff ensued.
Diaz draws in: With John Moore suspended two games for his hit on Montreal’s Dale Weise in Game 5, depth defenseman Raphael Diaz entered the lineup, playing on the third defensive pairing with Kevin Klein. Diaz made his first appearance in more than three weeks. Diaz played two games in the team’s second-round series against Pittsburgh.