Dominic Moore scored the game's only goal in the second period as
the Rangers wrapped up the Eastern Conference finals series 4-2.
The Rangers will play either the Los Angeles Kings or the Chicago
Blackhawks for the National Hockey League's championship when the
Stanley Cup finals start on June 4.
We've given ourselves the opportunity to compete for the Cup," said
Rangers' coach Alain Vigneault.
"It was a great feeling tonight. We played, in my book, probably our
best game of the playoffs."
New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who was surprisingly pulled during
Tuesday's Game Five loss in Montreal, made a spectacular return with
18 saves and his first shutout of the playoffs.
He pulled off one fantastic save from Thomas Vanek in the second
period when he dropped his stick but flipped around just in time to
stop the puck going into the net, whipping the Big Apple's hockey
fans into a frenzy.
"It was a roller coaster mentally," said Lundqvist, who gave up four
early goals before he was taken off in the last game.
"But then you just have to make up your mind. I kept telling myself
all day, 'believe in what you're doing' ... you have a tough game,
but you just have to stay confident."
With Lundqvist back to his impenetrable best and the Rangers offense
fueled by a rowdy crowd at Manhattan's most famous old arena, the
Blue shirts came out with all the ferocity of a prize fighter
looking for a quick knockout.
Montreal's rookie goalie Dustin Tokarski soon found himself under
fire, forced to save the first seven shots of the contest, including
a vicious snap from Mats Zuccarelolo that rifled into his face mask.
But the Rangers failed to capitalize on their early chances -
including a golden opportunity to score off a short-handed
wraparound - and the Habs slowly began to grow in confidence in a
scoreless opening period.
The Rangers came desperately close to scoring in the second period
when a shot from Derek Stepan, playing with a broken jaw he suffered
in Game Three, hit the post, triggering some anxious groans from the
team's long suffering fans.
The Canadiens, who won the last of their 24 Stanley Cup
championships a year before the Rangers' last success in 1994,
killed off two New York penalties then almost snatched the lead when
Lundqvist acrobatically stopped Vanek's backhander.
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"When you get close to achieving a goal it hurts," said Montreal
coach Michel Therrien. "It hurts more when you're close.
"But we made some good progress this year. I'm proud of this hockey
Moore finally broke the deadlock less than two minutes before the
end of the middle period when Brian Boyle got in behind the Montreal
net and fed the puck to Moore, who slipped it past Tokarski for his
third goal of the playoffs.
The last time the Rangers made the Stanley Cup finals was in 1994
when they beat the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to end a 54-year
The odds seemed stacked against them this season when they needed
seven games to win their first round playoff against the
Philadelphia Flyers, then clawed their way off the canvas from 3-1
down to upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round.
Within minutes of clinching the Eastern Conference, the Rangers'
three co-captains, Brad Richards, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, were
presented with the Prince of Wales Trophy.
But in keeping with one of the sport's superstitions, none of the
Rangers players dared touch the gleaming silver trophy, posing only
for a team photograph before skating away empty handed, with their
eyes on an even bigger prize.
"If you had told me in October that we were going the Stanley Cup
finals, I would've said 'what are you smoking?'" joked Vigneault.
(Additional reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Greg Stutchbury/Nick
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