May 28, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT
It’s been 20 years since the Blueshirts have been to a Stanley Cup Final — and now, they’re just one win away.
Getting to this point, though, hasn’t been easy. Let’s take a look back at how the Rangers advanced…
Round 1: Beat Philadelphia 4-3
New York’s opening-round opponent was its bitter divisional rival and, as you’d expect in a series between two teams separated by just two points in the standings, this one went the distance.
The series was as back-and-forth as it gets, with the Rangers and Flyers alternating wins until New York captured the final and most important one in Game 7 at MSG. As for individual performances, the Rangers were paced by the offensive contributions of Brad Richards, who made amends for last year’s disappointing playoffs by scoring six points in seven games (three coming in a Game 1 victory). Henrik Lundqvist was also his usual solid self, finishing the series by stopping 26 of 27 shots in the Game 7 victory, good for a .963 save percentage and second star honors.
As the series came to a close, an interesting narrative began: Philly and New York played Games 6 and 7 on back-to-back nights, and the Rangers had little time to celebrate as they were forced to start their second round series against the Penguins soon after.
Round 2: Beat Pittsburgh 4-3
Talk about scheduling dominated the early parts of this series, as Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said it was “stupid” how, after Game 3, the Rangers had played five times in seven nights.
Pittsburgh took advantage of a tired club and raced out to a 3-1 lead on the Rangers during this stretch, but the Blueshirts found momentum amid tragedy following the passing of Martin St. Louis‘ mother prior to Game 5. St. Louis played inspired hockey in the aftermath, scoring two points in the final two games — including a goal in Game 6, played on Mother’s Day — as the Rangers rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series for the first time in franchise history.
That put New York on the road to where it’s at today. The Rangers still sit in the driver’s seat over Montreal — leading three games to two — despite losing Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final at the Bell Center. Should they put away the Habs, the Blueshirts would be back in a Stanley Cup Final for the first time since Mark Messier captained them to a championship in ’94, which snapped a 54-year Cup drought in the process.
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