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..."we had to win this game because we didn't want to go back to Toronto"

by Derek Jory @NoJoryous / Vancouver Canucks

In the 1993-94 NHL playoffs, the Vancouver Canucks faced the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Western Conference Final, with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line.

To reduce travel between two teams 4,500 km apart, the NHL introduced a 2-3-2 format, meaning the Canucks would play in Toronto for Games 1 & 2 before Games 3, 4, & 5 shifted to Vancouver. Games 6 & 7 would swing the series back to Toronto.

The seventh seeded Canucks had already upset the second ranked Calgary Flames and fourth ranked Dallas Stars, with four of Vancouver's eight wins coming in overtime. The Canucks were hitting their stride as they headed to Toronto with high hopes of playing for the Holy Grail.

Trevor Linden

(Canucks forward from 88-98 & 01-08, 1,140 games played)

Linden - That Calgary series was really two different things. We got down 3-1, then Geoff Courtnall's overtime winner in Game 5 set the tone for Game 6, then we win again in overtime, then of course Pavel's incredible goal in Game 7. And that was the launching pad for us. We walked into Dallas two days later after going seven with Calgary and just continued to play really well and won both games in Dallas, came home for three and won two of those. From that point forward, it just seemed like after that Game 7 we were just a different group.

Greg Adams

(Canucks forward from 87-95, 489 games played)

Adams - The weird thing was that we had won so many overtime games and so many close games that playoffs that we all felt that we were going to win every game. It was just a feeling we had, you didn't know how it was going to happen, but you always felt that way. It's the first time I've been on that type of run where you're so confident about the team that you're with and that you were going to win hockey games.

Kirk McLean

(Canucks goaltender from 87-98, 516 games played)

McLean - We were feeling pretty good, we were on a roll obviously. We took care of Calgary, took care of Dallas, then it was on to Toronto. It was bittersweet having grown up in Toronto, it was a weird feeling playing against the Leafs. My family and friends were split, family was on my side for the most part, friends were on the teeter totter - they wanted me to do well, but they wanted the Leafs to win. It was a weird situation.

Sergio Momesso

(Canucks forward from 91-95, 269 games played)

Momesso - It was a strange thing in that year that it was 2-3-2, so we started off with two games on the road in Toronto, then three at home, then two would go back to Toronto. We lost the first game, but then won the second and got the split; we won games 3 and 4 and led the series 3-1 going into Game 5. We knew how critical that game was to win. We wanted to finish the series, we didn't want to go back to Toronto for a Game 6 and possibly a Game 7.

Linden - We were a little flat in Game 1, then played a lot better in Game 2, but for sure we wanted the split. When you're going 2-3-2, the pressure really gets back on you when you go home for three games. Kirk was phenomenal in games 3 and 4, I remember that, but I also remember Tim Hunter, he was a guy that Pat picked up as a waiver claim, and at the time, I was like whyyyy are we picking this guy up? But Pat had a way about him and he knew. Tim stepped into our group and was a really effective penalty killer and just such a good person and such a big part of that locker room and how we approached the game. Anyways, it was game 3 or 4, I can't recall which one, and Doug Gilmour was coming around behind the net and Hunts was a right-winger, and he saw him coming behind the net and left his point man in the defensive zone and met Dougy behind the net and absolutely laid the boom on him. Dougy was banged up before that, but that was the final straw for Dougy, he was in rough shape after that. Those are the types of turning points that make a big difference. It wasn't just a big hit, it was a big hit on the lifeblood of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was a big determining factor in that series.

McLean - I was on a roll and the team was on a roll. Our confidence level was super high. We split the first two games, which was important, then got back-to-back wins at home setting up a crucial Game 5. Everybody was totally on the same wavelength and pulling on the same rope, and I remember being so focused; I played the game within the game in that I would turn each period into five, four-minute segments. That was how I got through it. I would try to win or tie those five segments. That served me well, but we didn't get off to a good start in Game 5. It was 3-0 in the 1st period.

Adams - I remember everyone's biggest thought was that we had to win this game because we didn't want to go back to Toronto, if we had to go back it could have been a different outcome, so being down 3-0 made it almost a desperate situation and you could feel it in the dressing room.

Momesso - If I recall properly, we were down 3-0 in that game after that 1st period. It was the worst start you could possibly dream of, at home, when you're trying to clinch the series. There were a couple strange bounces and they got some early goals and all of the sudden we were reeling, and it happens sometimes in the flow of the game. It's tough to explain. It's not that we weren't trying, but nothing was going well. We definitely said that we had to throw everything at them in the 2nd period to get back into this game. We did say that if we got two in the 2nd, and won that period 2-0 to put us down just 3-2, that would give us the momentum going into the 3rd period to tie it and then go from there. So our mission was to get two goals and don't give up anything - and that's almost what happened. We actually scored three goals and tied the game.

McLean - I knew I had to shut them down in the next two periods, then it was just a matter of scoring one goal at a time. There was no panic. We were at the point that we knew, in any game, if we were close enough going into the 3rd period, we had a pretty good chance to win. If we were up in the 3rd, we knew we were going to win. We were tied heading into the 3rd in this one.

Linden - In that deciding game, we're actually down 3-0, Wendel Clark had their third goal, I remember that, then we started to claw our way back. Next thing we knew, it was overtime.

McLean - Everything is a blur from the first overtime, I don't remember a thing. But I remember everything from the second overtime.

Watch: Youtube Video

Linden - Going into double overtime, minds and bodies are tired. We came out with a clean sheet of ice in the second overtime and I carried the puck over the line, and kind of turned up and bumped it back to Babs in a pretty innocent looking play. He got it on net, I think Felix might have been screened on it and did make the save, but Gus was right there and he chipped it home. That sent Vancouver into the next stratosphere, if you will. When I think about it today, beating Toronto in the conference final, it was a pretty magical time for Vancouver fans.

Adams - We started that second overtime period and the first thing that I remember is just being exhausted and I was thinking 'okay, settle down, you've got to give everything you have because you never know what's going to be the outcome.' Linden had the puck at the half boards and he gave it to Babych and he just got a shot on net. It wasn't a real hard shot, but for some reason Potvin had trouble controlling it and all I remember was I had to go to the net, I knew the puck was going to the net, Babych was always good at getting it on the net, so I was going to go to the net and for some reason the puck came right out to me and I just backhanded it in. There was no time to think, it was more of a reaction than anything. As soon as I scored, I was going towards the corner and I looked and saw all the fans jumping up and down I kind of went right to them, right to the three people sitting in the corner, I kind of wanted to celebrate with them because they were the first people I saw. I just jumped into the glass and then everyone came on top of me from there.

Momesso - I was on the bench. That line started the beginning of the second with Linden and Adams, and maybe Courtnall, I don't remember. I do remember the shot going from the point, and the rebound was there and I saw Greg had it and then everyone was standing up, so we all were anticipating him to score. I didn't exactly maybe see it go in, but I heard it go in and we just all dove onto the ice. It was a great night. We had the trophy presentation and we knew we were going to the finals, but that was the next step. That night was a memorable night for sure, especially doing it at home in Vancouver.

McLean - I just remember the goal. The puck was shot from the point and then Greg came in, picked up the rebound and slid it in. The arms went up and the red light went on and I was looking around to make sure there were no penalties or anything. Then the horn is going off and then you're joyful in realizing you're going to the Stanley Cup Final. Some guys came my way, and some went that way, and we all met to celebrate and hoist the Campbell Conference Cup, and of course the lid falls off on Trev. I can see the picture right now in my head. Then Mrs. Griffiths, they showed her up in the box cheering. It was a pretty cool feeling.

Watch: Youtube Video

Momesso - There's your first game, first goal, your first hat-trick, first game at the Forum - there's a lot of cool NHL moments, 100 goals and things like that, but the ultimate goal is to win the Cup, so I think those two months of playoffs in '94 was what I'll cherish most. Except the last part, I'd like to change the ending. Other than that, it was a great time and it was a great team, on and off the ice. We still stay in touch today, which goes to show how tight we were.

McLean - Without a doubt that's my most cherished hockey memory. We got a trophy out of it and of course it gave us the opportunity to play for the Cup. It's definitely a highlight that it was Toronto we beat; I remember shaking hands afterwards and Wendel Clark saying "Go do it for Canada." Which still hasn't happened. It was weird beating out my hometown, but it was an incredible feeling.

Linden - People always ask what the highlight of my career was and it was definitely beating Toronto in the Conference Final. And they always are surprised and ask why it isn't the Stanley Cup Final, and well, we didn't win. For me, it's always beating Toronto in Game 5, Greg Adams in overtime, and that euphoric atmosphere that took over Vancouver.

Adams - A lot of the avid Canucks fans remember me for more than just the goal, I played in Vancouver for eight years and was a part of this team for a long time, but that goal is definitely the one that I'm branded with and I don't mind that at all. People remember you for a couple of important things, things that were eventful in their lives. Vancouver and Canucks fans have always been very respectful towards me and have shown me a lot of kindness, so it's sure a nice feeling and I respect how much that goal has meant to a lot of people.

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