It’s been 20 years since the New York Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Finals. On Thursday night, the team will have a chance to do so in front of their home fans.
New York is set to host the Montreal Canadiens in Game Six of the 2014 Eastern Conference finals. Montreal forced the contest with a 7-4 victory on Tuesday.
The Rangers’ defense and goaltending has gotten them this far, but it’s also what betrayed them in Game Five. They surrendered a playoff-high seven goals, including four in the first 27 minutes. New York head coach Alain Vigneault responded by pulling star goalie Henrik Lundqvist, giving backup Cam Talbot an opportunity.
In less than 10 minutes, the Rangers tied the game at 4-4. Talbot played the rest of the way, giving up three unanswered goals in defeat. After his worst performance of the postseason, Lundqvist is ready to redeem himself.
“It was better to keep Talbot in there -- for me to get a little break there and start thinking about the next one,” said Lundqvist. “Of course, I was hoping for us to get back in the game and get close. But now we’re going home for a Game 6 at home, and it’s going to be exciting and a great challenge for us.”
In order for New York to close out the series, they’ll need Lundqvuist to have a standout performance. The Rangers are 0-6 this postseason when allowing three or more goals. The last time the goalie was pulled from a playoff game was in the first round, when New York lost to Philadelphia 5-2 in Game Six. The following night, Lundqvist allowed on goal in the series clincher.
The Canadiens were in a similar position in the second round. They trailed the Boston Bruins 3-2 in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and went on to take the next two games. Brandon Prust is set to return for Montreal, following his two-game suspension for a late hit on Derek Stepan.
“He’s obviously a big part (of our team),” Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said Wednesday, via the New York Daily News. “The roles he plays on penalty killing and bringing energy to our lineup, he’s obviously a big key for us.”
As they return home, the Rangers are expected to take care of business. The consensus betting odds from Las Vegas have named New York decided favorites. The Rangers’ moneyline is listed at -175, while the Canadiens come in at +155.
The NBC Sports Network will broadcast the contest on TV at 8 p.m. ET, and viewers can watch a free live stream online with NBC Sports Live Extra. It will likely set a viewership record in New York for an NHL game airing on the NBC family of networks.
Prediction: The Rangers have been the better team all series. Montreal was unstoppable in Game Five, but that performance by Lundqvist was an aberration. He should have another stellar game and help New York advance.
Predicted Score: New York 3, Montreal 1