Remembering '94: Game 4

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Mike Richter’s save on Pavel Bure’s penalty shot helped the Rangers win Game 4.Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll reminisce here about the postseason run by the 1994 Rangers, who ended a historic drought by winning the team’s first Stanley Cup Since 1940. The Rangers rolled through the first two rounds of the playoffs, going 8-1, but ran into a roadblock in the conference finals against a New Jersey Devils team they’d beaten six times in six games in the regular season. They won that series to set up a meeting with a Cinderella team, the Vancouver Canucks, who upset the Toronto Maple Leafs to advance to the Cup Finals.

The Canucks won Game 1, but the Rangers eked out a win in Game 2 and won Game 3 handily. With the help of newspaper and video archives (particularly the team highlight video, “Oh Baby!” we remember Game 4, played 20 years ago Saturday.

The Details

The Rangers were up 2-1 in the series, but the Canucks came out looking like they were going to win Game 4, as they scored the first two goals and led 2-0 after one period.

The Rangers got one back a little more than four minutes into the second when Brian Leetch rocketed a Craig MacTavish drop pass on a line drive past Canucks goalie Kirk McLean.

The turning point of this game came soon after when Leetch took down Canucks star Pavel Bure on a breakaway and the officials awarded Bure a penalty shot.

Bure had gone against on Rangers goalie Mike Richter twice previously on breakaways, once in that season’s All-Star Game, and once in Game 3 of the series. Richter stopped the former, when Bure tried to go left and Richter made a pad save. Bure scored on the latter, putting a shot between Richter’s legs with a straight-on move.

This time, Bure would try to go wide again and again Richter would make the save, providing one of the most memorable moments not just in the series, but in Rangers history.

In the final moments of the second period, the Rangers would tie the game on Sergei Zubov’s straightaway slapshot from the blue line.

The game hung at 2-2 through much of a tense third period. With five-and-a-half minutes left, Canucks forward Martin Gelinas threw Rangers defenseman Kevin Lowe into the boards and got called for a penalty. ESPN broadcaster Gary Thorne yelled out “Martin Gelinas, what are you thinking?”

Leetch came down on an end-to-end rush and avoided one defenseman, who chopped at Leetch’s wrist as he cut to the net. Undaunted, Leetch was able to feed Alexei Kovalev, who went top-shelf past McLean to put the Rangers ahead.

The Rangers would score again (in bizarre fashion on a goal that deflected off a Canucks defenseman about two minute later). The Canucks would not.

The Rangers were 4-2 winners and now had a 3-games-to-1 lead in the series.

What they wrote

“Typical of this Stanley Cup final that the first truly great game, a potential all-time classic, was decided by a foolish penalty and a fluke.”

-- David Neal, Miami Herald

“The Rangers have poured champagne into the Cup. Now all they have to do is drink it.”

-- Laura Price, NY Newsday

“As chants go, "1940" wasn't bad. It was clean. It was clever. It will be missed. The New York Rangers need to win just one of their next three games to mothball that popular road-game refrain, a reference to their most recent Stanley Cup championship. They are on the verge of what would be one of the sport's Big Moments, the hockey equivalent of the Cubs or the Red Sox winning the World Series.”

- Les Bowen, Philadelphia Daily News

“When Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final ended, even the fans could have used oxygen. So it was fitting that the game-winning goal was breathtaking.”

-- Cammy Clark, St. Petersburg Times

Vancouver took its best shot -- a Pavel Bure penalty shot -- and Mike Richter made sure it didn't fell the Rangers.

-- Viv Bernstein, Hartford Courant

Quotes of the Day

Perspective on the penalty shot:

"He didn't give me any room. I tried to deke him, but he didn't give me any room."

-- Pavel Bure

"I just wanted to come out as quickly as I could to take his options away. I did the same thing on his breakaway goal the first night here, but he found an opening.”

-- Mike Richter

“That was the biggest stop he ever made in his career for sure.”

-- Rangers head coach Mike Keenan

Stats to Know

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the penalty shot is the only one the Rangers have ever faced in a Stanley Cup Finals. There have been two in other Finals' since-- a Chris Pronger goal for the Oilers against the Hurricanes in 2006 and a save by Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere on Antoine Vermette of the Senators in 2007.

A 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals is historically a pretty safe one. The only team to blow a 3-1 lead is the 1942 Red Wings, who were beaten by the Toronto Maple Leafs.