Remembering '94: Games 5 and 6

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The Canucks were in celebration mode and the Rangers were a picture of despair in Games 5 and 6.Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been reminiscing 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 and Game 4 with a late goal. With the help of newspaper and video archives (particularly the team highlight video, “Oh Baby!”) we remember Games 5 and 6.

The Details

As someone who remembers it very well, there was a sense of anticipation for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals unlike anything else I’ve experienced in my lifetime as a follower of New York sports. In hindsight, the presumption by many that the Rangers would win Game 5 without issue was silly, given that they had disappointed so many times before.

The Rangers missed out on an opportunity to take a 1-0 lead midway through the first period Game 5 when a linseman missed a call and called an offsides, negating a slapshot goal from the blue line by Esa Tikkanen.

Instead, it was the Canucks who would take control, and a few minutes into the third period, they had a 3-0 lead. The Rangers had an answer, in the form of three goals in a span of 5:35, the last coming from captain Mark Messier and there was a sense that the Rangers were going to find a way to win this one.

But after the Rangers went into attack mode on the ensuing faceoff, the Canucks would come back down the ice and score on a blast by defenseman Dave Babych 29 seconds later, and then score twice more to win, 6-3 to send the series to Vancouver for Game 6.

The city of Vancouver treated Game 6 as if it was Game 7 and the Canucks responded with their best all-around game. Late-season acquisition Jeff Brown scored two goals, as did forward Geoff Courtnall and Kirk McLean made 28 saves to give the Canucks a 4-1 win. The Rangers ended up on the short end of two video replays, one that negated a Glenn Anderson goal and one that gave Courtnall a goal. The latter was notable because in the continuation of play after a Courtnall shot hit the crossbar, Mark Messier scored for the Rangers, but that goal was wiped out.

As was the Rangers' 3-1 lead in the series.

What they wrote

“They've waited 54 years, and now they'll have to wait two more days. Or maybe four more. Or - heaven help us - maybe another half-century. Maybe forever.”

-- Ken Rosenthal, then of the Baltimore Sun

“The Stanley Cup finals are down to this: an incredible comeback, a lingering curse and a game seven at Madison Square Garden.”

-Mike Nadel, Associated Press

“Maybe there is a curse on the Rangers. Maybe there is a reason they haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1940. Maybe they never will win it. The Rangers built a seemingly insurmountable lead over the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals. Now it's gone.”

-- Viv Bernstein, Hartford Courant

“It is a one-game season now for the New York Rangers, who will write history either as the biggest bunch of choking dogs or the most memorable group of players the franchise ever assembled.”

-- Frank Brown, New York Daily News

Quotes of the Day

“The party is delayed. And hopefully it will be delayed until next year."

-- Canucks center Murray Craven

"The party doesn't start until we have our say. All the talk about the party and the parade that was going to go on, that was enough. It was what we needed. It really brought our team closer together.”

-- Canucks captain Trevor Linden

Stats to Know

The Rangers have lost the last four times they played in a Game 5 or Game 6 of a Stanley Cup Final, and have been outscored 17-5 in those four games.