New York Rangers Eliminate Montreal Canadiens

USATSI_10026466_154158418_lowresThe New York Rangers have eliminated the Montreal Canadiens with a 3-1 victory in Game Six. The victory came on Sunday night on the strength of two goals from Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello. Derek Stepan added an empty-netter with under 20 seconds to go in the final frame.

Alexei Emelin had the lone goal for the Habs.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was solid in the win, making key saves including a neat glove save on a Shea Weber point shot and a critical late save on a Tomas Plekanec doorstep chance.

Carey Price was solid against the Blueshirts’ shooters, but the Swedish netminder was better. Lundqvist allowed just 11 goals in six games.

The Rangers outscored the Canadiens 14-11 in the series, proving just how close things could be. But Lundqvist took a shutout in Game One to start things off.

Alexander Radulov was the leading scorer for the Canadiens, with a total of seven points in six games. 21-year-old Artturi Lehkonen had a solid series, with two goals and two assists in his first playoff run.

But many of Montreal’s top offensive talents had trouble finding the net. Max Pacioretty was held without a goal after scoring 35 in the regular season. He managed just one point. Alex Galchenyuk didn’t score in the post-season either, while Tomas Plekanec just had one goal after scoring 10 in the regular season.

Zuccarello had three goals for the Rangers, while Rick Nash had two goals and one assist. Mika Zibanejad led the way in points for New York, posting four points in six games.

“It was a good-fought series there, a tough one,” Zuccarello said after Saturday’s game. “Montreal played great, a tough team to play against. They made it hard for us, but we have a tough team in here. [Lundqvist] is unbelievable and we stick together. Our [defencemen], they play unbelievable. They block shots, they stand up every hit, and it’s amazing to have those guys behind us.”

Ryan McDonagh averaged nearly 27 minutes a game for the Rangers.

Weber was the ice time leader for the Habs, averaging just under 28 minutes a game. His experience was a factor for Montreal to a point, but there wasn’t enough gas in the tank when it mattered and the Canadiens failed to capitalize on critical Game Six chances.

There were other factors in the series win for New York, including a subtle post-Game Three move by head coach Alain Vigneault that saw rookie Pavel Buchnevich subbing in for Tanner Glass in time for Game Four. The shift helped the Rangers build their speed game and subsequently led to back-to-back wins.

Vigneault shuffled all his forward lines after Game Three, in fact, and the team never looked back. The Blueshirts won the remaining games in the series and Buchnevich saw over 13 minutes of ice time in Game Six.

The Canadiens were without Andrew Shaw in Game Six, as he sustained an upper body injury in Game Five.

Many, including yours truly, expected the Canadiens to finish out the series. But the Rangers were determined and won the much-ballyhooed goaltending battle. They went into Saturday’s contest having won seven of their last nine elimination games at Madison Square Garden and rode home momentum to the victory.

New York will go on to face the winner of the Ottawa/Boston series and Montreal will go back to the drawing board. Again.

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