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Rangers return to Stanley Cup finals by shutting out Canadiens

The Stanley Cup playoffs have very rarely turned out well for the New York Rangers in the end. The Rangers once had one of the longest Stanley Cup droughts in history, and have started another drought ever since. But after 20 years, New York finally got back to the brink of the Cup on May 29, by finishing off the Montreal Canadiens with a 1-0 win to clinch the Eastern Conference crown.

Rangers' 1-0 shutout puts them back in finals
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Since snapping their infamous 54 year Stanley Cup drought in 1994, the Rangers hadn't been back to the finals. In fact, this year marked only their third trip to the Eastern Conference finals in the last 20 years. In this case, the third time was the charm for New York, as Montreal didn't have enough to stave off elimination for a second straight time.

After the Rangers and Canadiens combined for 11 goals in Game 5, defense came back into the forefront in Game 6. Henrik Lundqvist lasted the whole night this time, making a highlight reel save in the second period by batting away a deflected puck in midair with his pad. It was the last serious threat the Canadiens mustered, even when Dominic Moore finally got the first goal of the night for the Rangers minutes later.

Although the Canadiens were 20 minutes away from being eliminated, they were on their heels in the entire third period. New York only allowed three shots in the entire period before goaltender Dustin Tokarski was pulled, as Tokarski had to stand on his head for much of the period to keep it 1-0. But despite all that, Montreal couldn't reward the efforts of their former backup.

The Canadiens were counted out of the Stanley Cup playoffs when Carey Price was ruled out of the series after Game 1. Yet Tokarski did more to keep them alive than almost anyone, even outshining current Conn Smythe favorite Lundqvist at times. Lundqvist only needed to make 18 saves in Game 6, while Tokarski made 31 -- but he couldn't make a 32'nd on Moore's shot.

That is why the Rangers are in nearly uncharted territory in the Stanley Cup playoffs, as they are four wins away from a second Cup in 74 years. Now New York will wait for either the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks or the 2012 champion Los Angeles Kings to host it in Game 1 of the finals.