NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers won their third straight game on Saturday and advanced in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 3-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Madison Square Garden.
Here are five reasons the Rangers advanced to the second round:
1. HENRIK LUNDQVIST WINS GOALTENDING DUEL
Some pundits probably gave Canadiens goalie Carey Price the edge before the first round got underway, but Lundqvist was slightly better as the series progressed. He allowed 11 goals over the six games and showed that despite some inconsistency over the course of the regular season, he's back to being the world-class goaltender at the right time of year.
Video: MTL@NYR, Gm6: Lundqvist uses pad for clutch save
Lundqvist finished the series with a 1.70 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage.
"We knew he was going to be there for us," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "We had ups and downs as a team, with him as well. He worked extremely hard to get to the top of his game. That's where he is right now, and it's huge for us."
2. RICK NASH WAS READY
He has struggled in the postseason in years past, but Nash arguably was the Rangers' best forward in the first round at each end of the ice. He had two goals and an assist in six games and played in all key situations.
"It's three pretty good games in a row, but we still had a tough Game 3 and some spurts where we weren't our best," Nash said. "But we beat a very good team and a very fast team with one of the best goalies in the world. It's a good job by us."
3. STAYING THE COURSE
The Rangers could have packed it in after being 17 seconds away from winning Game 2 in Montreal and taking a 2-0 series lead, only to lose in overtime and then lose again in Game 3 at home. Instead, they played their best game of the series in Game 4 and won in overtime back in Montreal in Game 5. And they overcame a slow start and responded with two solid periods to win Game 6.
Video: Ken Daneyko on the New York Rangers win over Montreal
"Without a doubt, a lot of focus and a lot of character," coach Alain Vigneault said. "We didn't play real well in Game 3. And after playing, I thought, pretty good in Montreal and coming 17 seconds from having a 2-0 [series] lead and it was 1-1 and we didn't play real well, and our guys responded. They responded by playing hard and playing the right way. You've got to give credit to Montreal; they came at us hard and they competed real hard. At the end of the day, it was a hard-fought series. Our goaltender made some timely saves and we were able to get it done."
4. BOOST FROM PAVEL BUCHNEVICH
The Rangers received an admirable performance from forward Tanner Glass in the first three games (which included a goal in Game 1), but Vigneault's decision to insert Buchnevich for Game 4 may have been the turning point of the series. Buchnevich was solid with linemates Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider and helped create more balance throughout the Rangers' four lines.
"It might look good right now, obviously," Vigneault said. "I've got a lot of confidence in this group. Sometimes you make subtle, little moves and guys respond. A couple of guys after the first couple of games weren't really playing as well as we needed them to play. You look at [Kevin Hayes'] line [in Game 6]; I didn't think they were that good last game in Montreal, and [Saturday] they responded with a real good performance. That's the way the game is."
5. MATS ZUCCARELLO SAVES BEST FOR LAST
The Rangers received a big-time performance from Zuccarello when they needed him most. The veteran forward scored two goals in Game 6, and also had a goal in Game 2.
"Mats, I think this year he's made that transition from another guy to one of the top leaders on the team," Nash said. "He showed that [in Game 6]."
Video: MTL@NYR, Gm6: Zuccarello slams home Hayes' feed