NEWARK, N.J. — Adam Henrique scored off a wild scramble in front at 1:03 into overtime and the New Jersey Devils defeated the New York Rangers 3-2 to advance to their first Stanley Cup Finals since 2003.
The Devils will face the Los Angeles Kings for the Cup in a series that will start on Wednesday.
It’s a remarkable comeback for a team that missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 1996.
Henrique’s series winner came after Henrik Lundqvist stopped Ilya Kovalchuk twice and Alexei Ponikarovsky. The last shot lay in the crease and Henrique, a rookie, tapped it home.
Ryan Carter and Kovalchuk also scored for the Devils, who blew a 2-0 first period lead.
Ruslan Fedotenko and Ryan Callahan tallied for top-seeded New York, which had a good flurry just before New Jersey scored.
Henrique, who is nominated for the Calder Trophy – given to the NHL’s top rookie – skated away from the crease and jumped against the end boards in the corner as his teammates jumped off the bench and mobbed him.
This was very much like Game 5, which the Devils won 5-3. New York carried the play after the first period and had a 35-29 edge in shots.
But when it came time for a game-deciding play to be made, it was a Devil who made it.
KINGS: Simon Gagne returned to practice on Friday as Los Angeles went through its first full workout since clinching a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The high-scoring veteran left wing hasn’t played since Dec. 26, when he suffered his latest concussion in a win over Phoenix.
Although the seven-time 20-goal scorer is cleared for contact and says he’s 100 percent symptom-free, even Gagne isn’t sure he should be added back to the Kings’ lineup for the final round.
CANADIENS: Will have two assistant general managers after hiring Rick Dudley.
Dudley will team with Larry Carriere, who received a contract extension to remain as assistant GM.