New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - For the first time in 20 years, the New York Rangers are heading to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Backed by Henrik Lundqvist's 18-save shutout and Dominic Moore's second-period goal, New York grabbed a 1-0 Game 6 victory over the Montreal Canadiens to win the Eastern Conference finals from Madison Square Garden.
The Blueshirts marched through the Eastern Conference with a seven-game victory over the Flyers in the first round and rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Penguins in the second, before downing Montreal in an Original Six matchup to punch their ticket to the Cup finals for the first time since last winning it all in 1994.
"It means a lot. Obviously, it's been a tough year for me," said New York forward Martin St. Louis, who was acquired from Tampa Bay during the season and whose mother died earlier during the postseason. "This makes it pretty cool. Being somewhere for 13, 14 years and changing teams and to get a chance to play in the Stanley Cup Finals with these teammates of mine, who have been nothing but great through my tough time in the past few weeks, it makes it even more special. I am proud to be a Ranger and do it alongside these great teammates."
That last Stanley Cup series saw the Mark Messier-led Rangers end a 54-year dry spell when they defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games for their fourth championship.
Up next for New York will be either the Chicago Blackhawks or Los Angeles Kings when the Stanley Cup finals begin next Wednesday. The Kings lead that series 3-2, with Game 6 set for Friday in Los Angeles.
For Lundqvist, this game was a great bounce-back from a Game 5 performance that saw him pulled early in the second period after allowing four goals on 19 shots.
This shutout victory, his first blanking of this postseason, saw him tie Mike Richter, who backstopped the last New York Cup championship, for most postseason shutouts with nine, and move past him in playoff victories with 42 for the franchise record.
"When there's only two or three seconds left and you realize you did it, it's an unbelievable feeling," said Lundqvist. "What took us there is the entire team really stepped up in key moments throughout the year and especially in the playoffs."
Dustin Tokarski, who started the final five games in net for the Canadiens after Carey Price went down with an injury in Game 1, did all he could in this game as he made 31 saves, but it wasn't quite enough to get Montreal back to the Cup finals for the first time since the team last won it all in 1993.
"I was able to go in there and compete hard," said Tokarski. "A save or two somewhere in the series maybe changes the way it goes. You always try to get better and I'll try and improve for sure."
The only goal of the game came late in the second period as Ryan McDonagh grabbed the puck in the left corner boards. He whipped it around to the right of the net for Brian Boyle, who threw it out front for a cutting Moore and he wristed it in low with 1:53 left in the period.
"We got the puck in. We protected it well for a while there and used each other down low and cycled it well," said Moore. "When Boyle got it behind the net, I tried to let him know I was there and he made a great play."
Montreal ended the frame on a power play as Brad Richards was called for hooking with 13 seconds left in the period, but the team was unable to get any quality chances before the period ended, or when it resumed after the break.
It was all New York early, as the team tried to give itself some insurance, but Tokarski was up to the task.
Just over six minutes in, a furious flurry in the Montreal zone saw Tokarski stop Mats Zuccarello on a wraparound from the left side, then turn aside another Zuccarello wrister before stoning Derick Brassard twice and Benoit Pouliot.
The Canadiens didn't even get their first shot on net in the third until just over nine minutes in, and the team managed just five in all in the final frame as New York stymied most attacks before they had a chance to develop.
Tokarski stopped a big shot from Brassard on a break with 2:22 to play, and Montreal pulled him for an extra attacker with 1:53 to play.
The team, though, managed just two shots over the remainder of the game, and neither of them were threatening as time expired and the celebration in New York began.
The first period passed without a goal as the Rangers totaled 11 shots on net, while Montreal managed just five.
New York had an early chance in the frame when Zuccarello charged down the left wing and threw a shot on net that Tokarski stopped around 1 1/2 minutes in, and the team had one power play in the frame when Brian Gionta was called for goaltender interference.
Montreal ended the frame on a power play after Marc Staal was called for interference with a minute to play, but the frame ended without a score and the carry-over into the second period failed to bear fruit.
The Canadiens' best opportunity of the contest came with just under five minutes to play in the second, as Thomas Vanek had the puck down low and tried to pass it over to the right.
Dan Girardi was diving to cut off the pass and deflected it into the air, with Lundqvist throwing out the glove and knocking it away from harm.
New York improved to 6-4 as the home team in the playoffs, while the Canadiens finished 5-4 as the guests ... This was the 15th postseason meeting between these two clubs, and New York now holds an 8-7 lead thanks to winning the past two matchups ... Rangers defenseman John Moore served the first of a two-game suspension stemming from a hit on Montreal's Dale Weise in Game 5. Moore will be eligible to return for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals ... Montreal forward Brandon Prust returned to play after serving a two-game suspension for his late hit against Derek Stepan in Game 3. Stepan suffered a broken jaw on the play and missed one game.
05/30 01:28:18 ET