NEW YORK — Henrik Lundqvist might not have an easier or more satisfying shutout for the rest of his career than the one he had Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
This one put the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years.
Dominic Moore‘s goal late in the second period held up as the series-clincher as the Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final. Lundqvist made 18 saves in a bounce-back effort from his worst performance in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Lundqvist didn’t even make it through half the game Tuesday at Bell Centre before he was pulled after allowing four goals on 19 shots in a 7-4 loss. He is 6-2 with a .936 save percentage in games after a Rangers’ loss this postseason.
Lundqvist became the Rangers’ all-time leader in postseason wins with 42, one in front of Mike Richter, who was in net in 1994, the last time the Rangers played for (and won) the Stanley Cup. Lundqvist tied Richter for the most playoff shutouts in franchise history with nine.
The Rangers have won seven of their past eight home games in which they could eliminate an opponent.
New York will face either the Chicago Blackhawks or the Los Angeles Kings in the Cup Final. The Kings lead the best-of-7 Western Conference Final 3-2 with Game 6 on Friday at Staples Center (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final is Wednesday. The winner of the Western Conference will have home-ice advantage by virtue of its regular-season point total. The Blackhawks had 107, the Kings had 100, the Rangers had 96.
Lundqvist faced five shots in the first period and eight in the second. He didn’t face a shot on goal in the third until 9:03 had expired, and it came on a 97-foot floater by Montreal defenseman Francis Bouillon.
With its season on the line, Montreal managed five shots on goal in the third period. New York had 13 in the third, but Montreal goalie Dustin Tokarski kept it interesting by stopping them all before he was pulled for the extra skater with 1:53 remaining. Tokarski finished with 31 saves.
Moore gave the Rangers the 1-0 lead with 1:53 remaining in the second period. His goal came less than three minutes after Lundqvist made an acrobatic blocker save on Canadiens forward Thomas Vanek.
Lundqvist robbed Vanek with 4:45 left when he flailed his blocker up and somehow got a piece of a shot that deflected off Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi‘s stick and appeared headed for the back of the net. Lundqvist lost his stick and almost did a cartwheel as he threw his blocker up to make the save.
Moore’s third goal of the playoffs capped another long shift in the offensive zone by the Rangers’ fourth line. When they played together as a line in the series, Moore, Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett forechecked well and spent a lot of time in the Canadiens’ zone.
That’s how they generated Moore’s goal in Game 6. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh pinched in from the left point and got the puck from Dorsett in the corner. He wheeled it behind the net to Boyle, who from the trapezoid to the right of the net threaded a pass through Bouillon and into the slot to a wide-open Moore. He cut into the slot from the right circle and scored under Tokarski’s blocker.
Montreal had 1:47 of power-play time carry into the third period because New York forward Brad Richards hooked Vanek with 12.9 seconds left in the second. Vanek made a strong power move to the net from the left side and Richards got his stick in between him to prevent the threat. The Rangers killed the remainder of the penalty without allowing a shot on goal.
Montreal had one minute of power-play time carry into the second period after New York defenseman Marc Staal was guilty of interference on Tomas Plekanec at 19:00 of the first. The Canadiens did not score, taking two shots on goal in the opening minute of the second period.
The Rangers had the first six shots on goal in the game before Max Pacioretty gave Montreal its first at 7:39 of the first period. New York had an 11-1 advantage before Montreal finally started to generate some sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
The Canadiens had the final four shots of the first period, but they were outshot 11-5, 19-13 after two periods, 32-18 total.