With a grin on his face and the team's prized Broadway hat on his head, Dominic Moore kept saying what was in his heart. He repeatedly spoke of owing a debt to his teammates for helping him get through a season that was unimaginably hard. It is safe to say that he has more than made it up to them.
The Rangers have received more than they could have possibly expected from Moore, who sat out all of last season after the death of his wife, Katie, from a rare form of liver cancer. They got someone who stabilized the fourth line, someone who had the nerve to play well when they needed it most. And Thursday night, they got someone to score the only goal in Game 6 and send them to the Stanley Cup Final.
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"Looking back, the early part of the season was definitely not easy for me," said the center, who made his way to the slot, took a perfect feed from Brian Boyle and fired the only shot that beat goalie Dustin Tokarski at 18:07 of the second period. "Taking that much time off, you know it's going to be hard. But I owe a lot to them, and to be in this position with my teammates, being able to play for the Cup, is a great feeling."
If Moore, a free agent last summer, wanted to return to familiar ground, he had plenty of choices. He had played on nine teams. But he really wanted the Rangers, his first team. This truly was home, ever since his first practice in 2003, when he made a big hit that sent a veteran sprawling.
The veteran was Mark Messier. Fortunately for Moore, he took it in stride, admiring a kid trying to make his way.
"I started my career here and it's always been a special place for me," Moore said Thursday night. "I really enjoyed my time here and obviously Hank is a good friend."
On this occasion, Moore was voted the No. 1 star even above his buddy Hank, goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Moore said he could see all of this coming, even when hardly anyone else could. "It's a team that has all the ingredients," he said.
It was no shock to the Rangers that it was Moore who delivered. "He's not afraid of big moments,'' Marc Staal said, "and every time we've had a big game, he has stepped up with a great performance. He's a guy who talks about it a lot, too, not being afraid to make mistakes."
Fear can't put a glove on a guy who has had his hand squeezed by his wife in her final moments. He runs the Katie Moore Foundation for families of patients with rare forms of cancer.
He is a rock foundation for the Rangers, too. "It's been a pretty amazing journey," he said. "So far."