With a 1-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night, the New York Rangers are headed to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years.
The team's official Twitter feed celebrated the achievement, while Sportsnet's Mark Spector noted something familiar about the date:
Rangers fire coach John Tortorella: May 29th, 2013. Rangers advance to Stanley Cup Final: May 29th, 2014— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) May 30, 2014
Both goaltenders were tremendous in Game 6. Dustin Tokarski saved 31 shots and helped fight off first- and third-period onslaughts from New York, but Henrik Lundqvist responded with 18 saves in the shutout to clinch the series. While this marks his first trip to the Stanley Cup Final, though, The King clearly is not a stranger these kinds of postseason performances:
Rangers advance to Stanley Cup Finals as Henrik Lundqvist becomes Rangers' all-time leader with 42 playoff wins, passing Mike Richter— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 30, 2014
Dominic Moore was able to break the scoreless tie late in the second period, and the Rangers held on for the final 20 minutes to end the two-decade drought. As Numbers Never Lie noted, the last time this happened for New York, things went pretty well:
The Rangers RETURN to the Stanley Cup Final for first time since 1994. Note: In 1994, THIS HAPPENED pic.twitter.com/NE62jLWvZ2— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) May 30, 2014
The Rangers did just about everything right in the first period—except score. They controlled the puck in their offensive zone for much of the opening 20 minutes, dominating play and out-shooting the Habs 11-5.
The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle gave a look at the extremely lopsided Corsi numbers:
The Corsis in this game are 22-9 Rangers so far.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) May 30, 2014
The only numbers that meant anything were the zeroes on the score column, though, and Montreal had Tokarski to thank for that.
"Everybody talks about how (Lundqvist) is a great goalie," Canadiens left wing Rene Bourque told reporters after Game 5. "Has he been better than (Tokarski) this series? I don't think so."
The 24-year-old goaltender backed up his teammate's words and continued to fill in admirably for Carey Price, saving everything that came his way.
Montreal's official Twitter feed gave a look at one of his more resourceful saves:
Of course, the guy on the other end of the ice isn't exactly a slouch either, and in the second period, he came through with the save of the game to keep things scoreless.
Pete Blackburn of NextImpulseSports.com provided a look at the unbelievable denial:
Marc Staal was understandably grateful after the game, via the New York Daily News' Pat Leonard:
Staal on Lundqvist's save: "Ridiculous ... I owe him a beer."— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) May 30, 2014
Finally, it was the Rangers' fourth line that broke through with 1:53 to play in the second period. Brian Boyle delivered a terrific pass to Moore, who found himself wide open in front of goal and beat Tokarski.
ESPN's Pierre LeBrun applauded the effort all-around, while MSG Networks' Alan Hahn noted the importance of the home-ice advantage:
How big is that, a 4th-line goal. What a forecheck by that line. Boyle with a beauty pass to Moore. MSG rocking now— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) May 30, 2014
As ESPN Stats & Info noted, recent play from each team suggested there wouldn't be a turnaround in the final period:
Rangers are 9-0 in this year's playoffs when leading after 2 periods. The Canadiens are 0-4 when trailing after 2 periods #mtlvsnyr— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 30, 2014
With so much on the line, the Rangers responded with arguably their best period of the playoffs to make sure those stats stayed consistent.
The final 20 minutes resembled the first 20. New York brought the pressure, as its forwards continually beat Montreal's defensemen down the ice and challenged Tokarski, who remained the reason the Habs weren't down by three or four goals.
Sam Carchidi of The Philadelphia Inquirer put it simply:
Rangers are simply dominating the third period. Habs have no answers. Still 1-0, NY.— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) May 30, 2014
After just three shots on goal in the period, Montreal finally pulled Tokarski with 1:53 to play, but the Rangers were able to fight off the Habs' attack and book a spot back in the Stanley Cup Final.
Who wins the Stanley Cup?
Ending two decades of Eastern Conference playoffs disappointment is clearly a defining moment for New York, but it's not time to celebrate quite yet. Whether it's the Chicago Blackhawks or Los Angeles Kings for Game 1 on Wednesday, the Rangers are going to have their hands full when they play for the Cup.
As for the Canadiens, attention now shifts toward the offseason as their own finals drought—which was previously just one season longer than New York's—grows by another year.