Hockey / Sports

Rangers' success a long time in the making

NEW YORK -- Success doesn't always come quickly in the NHL.

For the current corps of Chicago Blackhawks, Stanley Cups and deep playoff runs have come fast and furious and at this point are expected.

But for this group of New York Rangers, a Stanley Cup berth was more than a few years and multiple playoff struggles in the making.

The most enduring pain came in 2012, when the Rangers lost to the rival New Jersey Devils in six games in the Eastern Conference finals. Then last season a second-round exit preceded the firing of coach John Tortorella. But that failure only served to make Thursday's triumph feel that much more earned.

"Back then we were looking for other ways, going outside our limits and trying to do other things," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "Here we really understand our identity and our strengths. We know ... we can compete with anybody."

The Rangers are venturing into new territory after their 1-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens gave them a chance at their first Stanley Cup since 1994. In surveying the dressing room after the victory, there was a sense of accomplishment and a palpable sense relief they are finally in this position.

Dominic Moore, who scored the winning goal Thursday, was especially happy. Moore is one of two Rangers who have dealt with personal tragedies in the last two years. Moore's wife died of liver cancer in January 2013. Recently the team has helped Martin St. Louis cope with the death of his mother. The bond the team has formed is one of the strongest Moore has seen, and he said it helped him regain the desire to play after missing last season coping with his wife's death.

"The early part of the season was not easy for me after taking that much time off," Moore said. "I owe a lot to (the Rangers) and to be able to play for the Cup."

The Rangers do not have a designated captain, but plenty of veterans make sure everyone stays in line. And the team has rallied around St. Louis, whose mother was buried outside Montreal between Games 1 and 2 of the conference finals.

"Obviously we had some things as a team we've shared together," Moore said. "Marty's mother passing away was something we rallied around, and Marty showed his leadership and his courage that we all rallied around."

There's only one more round of rallying left. The Rangers have come this far, so why slow down now?

"(We have) been a close group all year long, and we've gotten even tighter throughout this," defenseman Marc Staal said.

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune

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