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Rangers ready to meet Western winner in Final

by Tal Pinchevsky

The New York Rangers eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in six games to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years. In 1994, the Rangers defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to bring the Stanley Cup to the Big Apple for the first time in 54 years.

The Rangers will face the winner of the Western Conference Final, which is tied 3-3 between the Los Angeles Kings, who won the Cup in 2012, and the 2013 champion Chicago Blackhawks. Based on the Rangers' performance against each team during the regular season, they may be rooting for the Blackhawks in Game 7 at United Center on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

New York was 2-0-0 against Chicago during the regular season. In fact, a 3-2 win at United Center on Jan. 8 helped spark a run that turned around the Rangers' season. A 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 3 put the Rangers at 20-20-2 and in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division. Three games later, the Rangers were outshot 37-32 by Chicago but Henrik Lundqvist made 35 saves and Carl Hagelin scored the go-ahead goal with 5:57 remaining in a 3-2 win. The victory started a 12-4-0 run that ended with a 2-1 win against the Blackhawks at Madison Square Garden.

In that win Feb. 27, their first game after the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, backup goaltender Cam Talbot made 31 saves. Derick Brassard and Rick Nash gave New York a two-goal lead before Chicago's Peter Regin spoiled the shutout with 12 seconds remaining.

The Rangers didn't fare quite as well against the Kings, though the teams haven't seen each other for more than six months. In their second game of the season, New York went to Los Angeles on Oct. 7 and won 3-1 behind a 28-save effort by Lundqvist. The score was somewhat misleading; the Kings carried the play for much of the night and the Rangers clinched the victory when Ryan McDonagh's 160-foot shot took a bad bounce that eluded Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.

Los Angeles was much sharper when it came to New York on Nov. 17. The Rangers had 37 shots on goal but could not beat goaltender Ben Scrivens. Tyler Toffoli's second-period goal against Lundqvist was the difference in the Kings' 1-0 win at MSG.

Regardless of who wins the West, the Rangers will play Games 1 and 2 on the road; Chicago had 107 points, Los Angeles had 100 and the Rangers finished with 96. The Stanley Cup Final begins Wednesday.

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