NHL Playoffs: Rangers reach Stanley Cup Final

uspresswire-rangers-team-celebrate.jpg

NHL Playoffs: Rangers reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Henrik Lundqvist was perfect on a night he needed to be.

After one of the toughest games of his career, the New York goalie bounced back with a performance that put the Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals.

Lundqvist wasn't overly busy in stopping all 18 shots that came his way, but there was no margin for error as Dominic Moore's second-period goal was the only offense in New York's 1-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 on Thursday night.

The Rangers, who spent parts of the season as a question mark to make the playoffs, are in the finals for the first time since winning the title 20 years ago.

"We played so well the entire game," Lundqvist said. "For me it was more about just being focused on the shots they had."

Lundqvist and the Rangers shook off a 7-4 loss on Tuesday night in Montreal when they had their first chance to end the Eastern Conference finals.

Lundqvist quickly grew tired of the questions about that poor night, when he was yanked after allowing four goals in less than two periods. Now he is in the finals for the first time in his nine-year career.

"It's been tough," Lundqvist said. "You have so many highs. You have a few lows where you're questioning a lot of things, but then you just have to make up your mind, you can't have any excuses. I don't think I've been more determined to win a hockey game. To put ourselves in a spot where we can play for the Cup is extremely special."

Lundqvist leaped several times in his crease with his hands raised as streamers were fired off from the rafters at the final buzzer.

"It was just such a great feeling to see how we responded from the last game," Lundqvist said. "The third period, I think we played our best period of the playoffs. When it mattered the most, the guys really stepped up."

Lundqvist tied the team record for playoff shutouts with nine.

The Rangers are the first team to advance to the finals after being stretched to seven games in the first two rounds. To celebrate, the Empire State Building was immediately lit up in the team's red, white and blue.

The Rangers don't have a captain, so assistants Brad Richards, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, were called to accept the Prince of Wales Trophy but didn't touch it. The whole team joined them and posed for a photo while the Garden rocked with yells of "We Want The Cup!"

The Stanley Cup finals will begin Wednesday at either Chicago or Los Angeles, which leads the Western finals 3-2.

"It's something you feel good (about), but you have to keep in the back of your mind that this isn't the ultimate goal," Richards said. "It's an amazing achievement to be able to play for the Cup."

Montreal's Dustin Tokarski, who replaced injured No. 1 goalie Carey Price after Game 1, was solid in making 31 saves.

"It's pretty tough to have this opportunity to be a couple wins away from the Stanley Cup finals," Tokarski said. "I know it's going to be hard to come by again, but it was a heck of a series."

Montreal made one final push after Tokarski was pulled for an extra skater with 1:53 left. Lundqvist held off the Canadiens as fans chanted "Hen-rik! Hen-rik!"

The Rangers broke the deadlock late in the second period after some good grinding work in the left corner by rugged forward Derek Dorsett. The puck came free to defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who sent it behind the net to Brian Boyle in the right corner. Boyle spotted Moore alone in the crease and fed a crisp pass for a hard shot that got through Tokarski with 1:53 left.

Moore punctuated his third goal of the playoffs with an emphatic fist pump and yell.

"Like any player on the team, you want to do your job," said Moore, who had six goals in the regular season. "In big games like this, every little bit counts."

Montreal came right back and drew its second power play of the night when Richards was forced to hook Thomas Vanek as the struggling forward was making a strong drive in front from behind the net with 12.9 seconds remaining in the period.

The Canadiens failed on their two power plays and finished 2 for 23 in the series. Montreal had only five shots in both the first and third periods.

"It's not what we wanted," Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban said about the series. "Today they were opportunists. They scored a big goal and they really committed themselves to shutting it down after that."

Tokarski kept his club in it early in the third when the Rangers pushed for an insurance goal. Tokarski did splits and lunges to deny Derick Brassard on the doorstep after New York moved the puck out from behind the net.

Vanek nearly gave the Canadiens the lead with 4:45 to go in the second when he put a shot on net while Montreal had a mini 2-on-0 in front. Lundqvist made a desperate rolling move onto his back and got a piece of the puck with a swipe of his blocker, deflecting it away from the top of the net.

Montreal got back forward Brandon Prust after he served a two-game suspension for a late hit in Game 3 that broke Derek Stepan's jaw. Montreal's Dale Weise sat out two nights after he was wobbled by a hit to the head from John Moore that cost the Rangers' defenseman a two-game suspension that will carry into the Cup finals opener.

Notes
Lundqvist earned his team-record 41st career playoff victory. ... The Rangers hadn't won a series in less than seven games since the first round in 2008 against New Jersey. ... Montreal hasn't been to the Stanley Cup finals since winning the title in 1993.

NHL Notes: Penguins sign defenseman Brian Dumoulin to 6-year contract

usa-brian-dumoulin.jpg
USA Today Images

NHL Notes: Penguins sign defenseman Brian Dumoulin to 6-year contract

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin has turned his steady play for the Stanley Cup champions into a new contract.

Dumoulin and the team agreed to a six-year deal on Monday that will run through the 2022-23 season and will pay him an average of $4.1 million per year.

The 25-year-old Dumoulin had three goals and 11 assists during Pittsburgh's run to the Cup this spring and hasn't missed a playoff game during the team's sprint to back-to-back titles.

Dumoulin averaged a team-high 21:59 of ice time this postseason, and his plus-9 rating was best among Penguins defensemen. Dumoulin was forced to take on a larger roll this spring after injuries forced Kris Letang to miss the playoffs.

Predators: Austin Watson signs 3-year, $3.3 million deal
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year $3.3 million deal keeping him under contract through 2019-20.

The Predators announced the deal Monday.

Watson will earn $1 million this season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in the third year.

The 25-year-old forward is coming off his best season yet with Nashville. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound Watson had a career high with five goals and seven assists in 77 games this past season. Watson scored four goals and had nine points in 22 playoff games helping Nashville reach the Stanley Cup Final.

The 18th pick overall in the 2010 draft, Watson had three goals and 10 points in 57 games during the 2015-16 season.

Now, center Ryan Johansen is Nashville's lone restricted free agent awaiting a new deal.

Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren, a 'Go Blue' bond united with Flyers

Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren, a 'Go Blue' bond united with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Brendan Warren never expected the phone call.

It was a late Friday night in mid-June. Coyotes development camp was 10 days away, so Warren had been training in preparation. The Michigan product had plans for Fourth of July, too, to follow the annual summer visit with his NHL organization.

Then his phone buzzed.

"I was shocked," he said. "It just came out of nowhere, 9:30 one night."

Warren had been traded.

"They said I'd be going to the Flyers," he said.

Arizona sent Warren and a 2018 fifth-round draft pick to the Flyers in exchange for Nick Cousins and goalie prospect Merrick Madsen. Warren, who just turned 20 years old in May and finished up his sophomore year at Michigan, had a lot change in a matter of minutes. He started texting his friends and classmates the news.

The first one to respond: Cooper Marody, Michigan teammate and Flyers prospect.

"I was actually leaving a Sam Hunt concert and I saw the text there, and I called Brendan right away and we talked for a while," Marody said. "We were both pretty pumped about it."

When Warren heard he was headed to the Flyers, Marody came right to mind. The thought of having his support in a different setting allowed for some comfort to seep in amid the emotions of being traded. Starting over — and suddenly — isn't fun, but having a friend helps.

"I was really happy," Warren said of joining Marody. "He was really excited for me.

"The more I thought about it and the more I talked to my adviser and my family, everyone said it was such a great thing for me. So I got really excited about being a part of an organization like the Flyers."


Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren (CSNPhilly.com)

There Warren was, his nameplate above a locker at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, right next to much-anticipated No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick. This was not only development camp, but also Warren's orientation. He was meeting a whole new organization, a band of new prospects from all parts of the world.

Reassuringly, across the dressing room was a familiar face in Marody.

"I'm glad that I can be here with him and hang around him for camp," Warren said during the Flyers' July 7-12 development session.

Marody liked the company, too.

"We're excited to be here together," Marody said. "It's a little easier going to these camps knowing somebody so well like Brendan."

As 20-year-olds with a lot in common, Warren and Marody have grown close. Both are natives of Michigan and became Wolverines in 2015 — the same year they were drafted, Warren in the third round by the Coyotes, Marody in the sixth by the Flyers. The forwards made immediate impacts in their freshman seasons, as Michigan went on to win the Big Ten championship and advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I men's ice hockey championship, where it bowed out to eventual title winner North Dakota.

"They're different players, but what is unique about them, I think they have a very strong connection," Michigan assistant coach Brian Wiseman said last week in a phone interview with CSNPhilly.com. "They're both very likable kids, they're great teammates, they care and they work hard. I think we had them playing together, oh man, a large majority of their careers, at least their first year and well into maybe their second year. I think Cooper and Brendan might have played every game together as a freshman."

Playing exclusively on the same line, Warren and Marody jelled and left an imprint. Warren appeared in all 38 games and finished with 17 points (five goals, 12 assists), including a three-assist game against Niagara. Marody put up 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 32 games, finishing second among Michigan freshmen in scoring to only Kyle Connor, a Hobey Baker Award finalist and now Winnipeg Jet.

"Both our freshman seasons, we played together and did very well, did well for our team and developed a lot of good chemistry," Marody said, "so I think we can definitely take that here [to the Flyers]."

Last season, Michigan was hit hard by departures and suffered a down year, going 13-19-3 overall and 6-12-2 in the Big Ten. Warren collected 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 35 games, while Marody scored three of his five goals in a hat trick against rival Ohio State, but played only 18 games (15 points) because of academic ineligibility, a setback that may have resulted from a sickness.

Wiseman and the Wolverines are optimistic for 2017-18, expecting jumps from both Warren and Marody as they become upperclassmen. Wiseman, who played for Michigan and has been an assistant since 2011, said Warren was a goal scorer when recruited by the Wolverines and believes that is still coming at the college level.

"Tremendous skater, high compete level, his motor is nonstop, with the ability to score," Wiseman said. "Brendan's skating ability allows him to be effective in any type of game.

"He didn't score much in the last year and a half for us. I think there's still a goal scorer in there, I know there is a goal scorer because he's got a tremendous release and he works at it often. So we're looking for that growth in that part of his game, the offensive side of the game. … He's one of our top penalty-kill unit guys.

"Brendan Warren has invested the time to be a really good hockey player. For that, I am really encouraged what this year may hold for him."

Marody is a key cog to Michigan's power play — which was tops in the country in 2015-16 — and "leads the charge offensively," Wiseman said, as far as puck possession and playing down the middle.

"Cooper is a very smart, highly intelligent hockey player, has a gift of slowing down the game, reading situations and making high-level, executed plays," Wiseman said. 

"Some of the things he can do with the puck, engaging teammates by the way he sees the ice and distributes pucks into spaces is an exceptional skill he has."

Wiseman said Michigan saw "rapid" growth from Marody in the USHL.

"I expect that type of growth at the next stop as he makes his way through Michigan and into the pro hockey route," Wiseman said.

There's still work for both as Wolverines.

"As they move along in their careers," Wiseman said, "we have some things to improve on in their individual games."


Brendan Warren and Cooper Marody (Michigan Athletics)

Wiseman's engagement with the Flyers will probably kick up a notch.

The Flyers are in constant communication with Michigan throughout the season, tracking the development of Marody. Ann Arbor, Michigan, should be a popular destination spot for the Flyers' brass now with Warren in the fold, as well.

"They'll come up to a lot of our games, send us clips of highlights of NHL plays that we can do or work on, or just little things like that," Marody said. "Ask us how we're doing, if we need any advice or anything like that. If they come out and watch us, we'll talk to them after the game and they'll let us know how we're doing."

Both Michigan and the Flyers have a rooted interest in the players, but the end goal is the same, Wiseman said.

"What we want with Cooper and Brendan now is to be a great player for the University of Michigan and to prepare them the best we can to hopefully be a Philadelphia Flyer one day," Wiseman said. "And that's [the Flyers'] goal in place, too."

Wiseman has built a relationship with Flyers development coach John Riley, the Wolverines' primary contact during a busy season. Michigan understands the importance of preparing its student-athletes for competition presently, as well as in the future.

"Like other teams and organizations, the director of player development usually goes to us," Wiseman said. "So John Riley and I, we speak often to develop Cooper within the last two years since being drafted, some of the things that they see and acknowledge in conversations, and we have the same thing. We're around the kids more on a daily basis, so we just want to make sure we're all on the same page in this development path — that's the goal."


Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren (Michigan Athletics/CSNPhilly.com)

Warren's first contact with the Flyers came as he was processing the news on the night of the trade. He heard from Riley and general manager Ron Hextall — a quick introduction and run-through of the protocol, and then back to work for Warren.

"Right after I got the call from Arizona that night, Mr. Hextall called me and said welcome, we're excited to have you," Warren said. "He then told me when camp was and what to expect a little bit. And then I got a call from John Riley, the player development coach, and he just kind of went over the same stuff. He said he's going to be my resource throughout the year and then said see you at camp."

So Warren scratched his Fourth of July plans and instead trained through the holiday and right up to the new date of his summer development camp.

"That's hockey, though," Marody said. "It's no problem."

"Absolutely," Warren said.

Wiseman expressed the same message. As an assistant coach at the Division I level, his players are not only student-athletes but also NHL prospects. Wiseman is involved for guidance and support in situations such as Warren's this summer.

"I wanted to let him process it, so I reached out to him the next day just to explain, 'Hey, this is what pro hockey is about — some of these things do happen,'" Wiseman said. "Because I know that he's been dialed in with the Arizona Coyotes since he was 18. This is the aspect of pro hockey that sometimes we may not like, but it's reality. But he was excited about the opportunity.

"I didn't sense any disappointment or have to pick and cheer up the kid. He understood that this is what it is and he was ready to go forward."

Did Marody give Warren a Flyers introduction?

"Not really," Marody said. "I think a lot of it speaks for itself. It's obviously a huge, big-time organization with tons of history. We both know it's a tremendous honor to be prospects here and we're just looking forward to the future."

At development camp, Warren and Marody made for obvious roommates, which was actually somewhat fresh because they don't live together at Michigan.

"We see plenty of each other, we don't need to room together," Marody said with a laugh.

The "Go Blue" boys enjoyed the experience together — and hope it's the first of more to come.

"It's like you grow together with these experiences," Warren said, "and hopefully one day we're both here playing for the Flyers."

"That's the main goal."

Taking the road from Ann Arbor to Philadelphia.

"Being here, it's very inspiring for both of us I think," Marody said. "We both believe that we can do it and that we'll be up here someday."

Wiseman sees the potential behind it all.

"There's still some growth in these two kids, but they have a tremendous foundation to be really good players," Wiseman said. "And not only for us, but I think to make the Philly people, the Flyers' organization and some of your fan support really interested in the prospects."