NHL Playoffs: Rangers reach Stanley Cup Final

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NHL Playoffs: Rangers reach Stanley Cup Final

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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.

Flyers in familiar spot in standings as critical games before break await

Flyers in familiar spot in standings as critical games before break await

While many people believe the Flyers are in far better shape right now than where they were a year ago, the fact is, they are pretty much the same.
 
After 48 games played, the Flyers have the same number of points now as they did last season – 52.
 
The critical difference – and this is why fans say they’re better off – is that a year ago at this juncture, the Flyers were five points behind Pittsburgh in the wild-card chase.
 
Right now, they own the second wild-card spot, but there are five teams behind them within four points or less of catching them, two of which have games in hand.
 
Earlier this week, Toronto was ahead of them and the Maple Leafs have three games in hand, which makes Thursday’s showdown against the upstart Leafs at Wells Fargo Center a very critical game.
 
That game represents the back end of the Flyers' 13th back-to-back set, which starts Wednesday with a date at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.
 
If ever two games in a short week prior to the All-Star break were of prime significance, these next two seem to qualify.
 
“A hundred percent,” said Jakub Voracek, the Flyers' leading scorer with 42 points. “It’s the same for every game. Practice and come to the rink with a win in your head.”
 
To a man, the Flyers go into the nationally televised showdown with the Rangers feeling great about themselves because of the extraordinary effort they showed in Sunday’s 3-2 comeback victory against the Islanders in OT.
 
“I felt like we won the Stanley Cup with that overtime goal,” Voracek kidded. “That’s how happy we were. There was a lot of relief. Now we have to keep going.”
 
Just five points separate nine teams from the second wild-card position right now. The Eastern Conference is just as tight as it’s always been. Within the Metropolitan Division, just five points separate the Flyers from the three times tied for last in the conference - the Islanders, Sabres and Lightning.  
 
“It’s been that way,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “Right from the drop of the puck in October, it was going to be a battle. You can’t get too distracted by it. You worry about the job in hand and that’s tomorrow.”
 
The focus this week is rather narrow: two games left before the All-Star break begins on Friday.
 
“Yeah, both these games have implications directed to us in the standings,” said goalie Steve Mason, who will start against the Rangers. “Both being Eastern Conference teams and they are right with one another.
 
“We have to have a short mindset. We have the Rangers and that’s going to be a tough game going into MSG. Once that game is over, we focus on the Leafs.”
 
The Rangers have beaten the Flyers twice this season already – both in South Philly. While the games were mostly competitive, there remains a huge disparity in one critical area for both teams this season: goal differential.
 
The Rangers have a plus-40 differential while the Flyers check in at minus-18. As poor as Henrik Lundqvist (2.75 goals against average) has been this season – although his recent performances are trending upward – he still owns the Flyers.
 
In his last 15 games against the Flyers, going back to Jan. 1, 2013, Lundqvist is 11-3-0 with a 1.91 GAA and .938 save percentage.
 
“This is huge, especially in MSG,” Voracek said. “We lost two games in a row to them at home. Hopefully, we get points.”
 
In his last three starts this month, Lundqvist is 3-0, with a 1.32 GAA and .952 save percentage. In other words, the “old” King Henrik appears to have regained his throne just in time to face the Flyers.
 
“Their goaltender has been outstanding over this past stretch for them,” Hakstol said. “Their team is playing well.
 
“We have to worry more about our team. We’re not going to control what their side is going to do. We can control what we do.”

By the numbers: Inside the Flyers' maddening inconsistency

By the numbers: Inside the Flyers' maddening inconsistency

VOORHEES, N.J. — As the Flyers go into the final two games of the schedule before the All-Star break Wednesday night at MSG against the New York Rangers and Thursday night at home against the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs, here are some rather stunning numbers to consider.
 
Most glaring is the Flyers' power play, which is 0 for 14 over the last three games. The power play hit its season high in December as No. 1 in the NHL. It has since dropped to 10th.

Tuesday morning at practice, Claude Giroux and power-play coach Joey Mullen worked on some strategy on the chalk board at Skate Zone.
 
“The power play, we’re kind of a streaky team,” Giroux said. “When we start scoring, we begin believing more in what we do. We just hesitate a bit too much.
 
“We have all the tools. The power play has won us some games and lost us some games. It’s important that we stick with it. We know it can help us. We can’t get discouraged.”
 
0: The number of Flyers who are on the plus side of the ledger when it comes to plus/minus
 
3.06: The Flyers' goals-against average
 
3-10: Flyers' record in three-goal games
 
5 for 25: Flyers' power play in January so far
 
5-6-1: Flyers' record vs. Metropolitan Division
 
10-6: Flyers' overtime record
 
-18: Shayne Gostisbehere’s plus/minus this season
 
11: Brayden Schenn’s power-play goals total — first in NHL
 
21: Claude Giroux’s power-play points total — first in NHL
 
42: Jakub Voracek’s point total
 
102: Flyers 5-on-5 goals against total — 29th in NHL