New York • Henrik Lundqvist waited nine years for a night like this. It was 20 years in the making for the New York Rangers franchise.
When the final buzzer sounded Thursday night, the Broadway Blueshirts were in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since captain Mark Messier was in charge.
Lundqvist and the Rangers shook off a rough loss in Montreal two nights earlier and shut down the Canadiens 1-0 to win Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals and move on to their first championship round appearance since taking the title in 1994.
"Enjoy the moment right now, but we are not done," forward Martin St. Louis said. "It’s going to be fun. Take it all in, but leave it out there as well."
The Rangers had a 3-1 series lead before falling 7-4 in Game 5 when Lundqvist was pulled after allowing four goals in less than two periods.
Although New York knew it had two chances to eliminate the Canadiens, the team’s focus was on Game 6. Another trip back to Montreal was a dreaded experience the Rangers fought to avoid.
"It’s unbelievable right now," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "It’s a great feeling knowing that you get the opportunity. We’ll enjoy what we accomplished here, but we know what we are trying to get done.
"Our group isn’t finished yet. We don’t want this to end. We want to continue the journey."
Lundqvist wasn’t overly busy in stopping all 18 shots he faced, but there was no margin for error as Dominic Moore’s second-period goal was the only offense in the clincher.
"We played so well the entire game," Lundqvist said. "For me it was more about just being focused on the shots they had."
Lundqvist quickly grew tired of the questions about his poor night Tuesday. 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 end.
"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.
They don’t have a captain now, so assistants Brad Richards, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal were called to accept the Prince of Wales Trophy, but they didn’t touch it. The whole team joined them and posed for a photo while Madison Square 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.
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