By IRA PODELL
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Dominic Moore scored in the second period, Henrik Lundqvist bounced back from his worst performance in the playoffs and the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 on Thursday night to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.
The Rangers are in the championship round for the first time since winning it all in 1994. To celebrate, the Empire State Building was immediately lit up in Rangers colors.
Lundqvist and the Rangers shook off a 7-4 road loss Tuesday night to take out the Canadiens on home ice in Game 6.
Lundqvist needed to make only 18 saves to tie the team record for playoff shutouts with nine. He was pulled after allowing four goals in less than two periods Tuesday.
“It feels so unbelievable,” Lundqvist said. “The way we responded here, I think we played one of our best periods of the whole playoffs in the third period, when it mattered the most. You just have to get fired up and go out and play. The guys did such a great job. It was not hard.”
Lundqvist had been 0-5 since 2009 in non-Game 7 clinching games. He leaped several times in his crease with his hands raised as streamers were fired off from the rafters.
The Rangers don’t have a captain, so assistants Brad Richards, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, were called to accept the Prince of Wales Trophy. The whole team joined them and posed for a full squad photo while the Garden rocked with yells of “We Want The Cup!”
Montreal’s Dustin Tokarski, who replaced injured No. 1 goalie Carey Price after Game 1, was solid in making 31 saves.
The Stanley Cup finals will begin Wednesday at either Chicago or Los Angeles, which leads the Western finals 3-2.
Montreal made one final push after Tokarski was pulled for an extra skater with 1:53 left. Lundqvist held off the Canadiens as fans chanted “Hen-rik! Hen-rik!”
The Rangers broke the deadlock late in the second period after some good grinding work in the left corner by rugged forward Derek Dorsett. The puck came free to defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who sent it behind the net to Brian Boyle in the right corner. Boyle spotted Moore alone in the crease and fed a crisp pass for a hard shot that got through Tokarski with 1:53 left.
Moore punctuated his third goal of the playoffs with an emphatic fist pump and yell.
Montreal came right back and drew its second power play of the night when Brad Richards was forced to hook Thomas Vanek as the struggling forward was making a strong drive in front from behind the net with 12.9 seconds remaining in the period.
The Canadiens failed on their two power plays and finished 2 for 23 in the series.
Tokarski kept his club in it early in the third when the Rangers pushed for an insurance goal. Tokarski did splits and lunges to deny Derick Brassard on the doorstep after New York moved the puck out from behind the net.
Vanek, who hasn’t scored in seven games, nearly gave the Canadiens the lead with 4:45 to go in the second when he put a shot on net while Montreal had a mini 2-on-0 in front. Lundqvist made a desperate rolling move onto his back and got a piece of the puck with a swipe of his blocker, deflecting it away from the top of the net.
Montreal got back forward Brandon Prust after he served a two-game suspension for a late hit in Game 3 that broke Derek Stepan’s jaw. But Dale Weise sat out two nights after he was wobbled by a hit to the head from John Moore that cost the Rangers defenseman a two-game suspension that will carry into the Cup finals opener.
Despite being outshot 11-5 in the scoreless first period, the Canadiens had the most dangerous chances and controlled play in the New York end in the closing minutes of the frame.
The Rangers came out quickly and built a 6-0 edge in shots that grew to 11-1, before Montreal began pressuring Lundqvist. For several stretches, the Canadiens successfully cycled the puck inside the New York edge and drew nervous groans and sighs from the crowd each time they put it in on net. Alex Galchenyuk had the best shot, a backhander that Lundqvist turned aside with 5:10 remaining.
New York did little with the first power play, a goalie interference call against Canadiens captain Brian Gionta 4:50 in, and then killed an interference call on Staal that lasted through the first minute of the second period.
NOTES: Lundqvist earned his team-record 41st career playoff victory. … The Rangers hadn’t won a series in less than seven games since the first round in 2008 against New Jersey. … Montreal hasn’t been to the Stanley Cup finals since winning the title in 1993.
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