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Eighteen years later, no Game 6 guarantees coming

by Dan Rosen

Mark Messier is retired. There will be no pre-game guarantees this year.

"We haven't really thought about it," Rangers center Brad Richards said Thursday at Madison Square Garden after what may be the Rangers' last full team workout of the season unless they win Game 6 at Prudential Center on Friday.

Ah, but 18 years ago Thursday, Messier issued the guarantee heard round the hockey world when he boldly predicted that the Rangers would storm into the Meadowlands and stave off elimination by winning Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals.

"Mess Sez We'll Win" was the giant bold headline on the back page of the New York Daily News on May 25, 1994.

"No disrespect to history, but we're worried about ourselves. We want to create our own story and that's what we're here to do." -- Rangers' Brad Richards

"We'll Win Tonight" was the back-page headline in the New York Post that morning, even though Messier made his guarantee the day before.

How did it affect the New Jersey Devils, the team Messier guaranteed would lose?

Martin Brodeur, who was the Devils goalie 18 years ago in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Rangers just as he is today, said it didn't at all.

"We didn't even know before the game was ended that he made a guarantee," Brodeur said on a media conference call Thursday. "I don't know when he did it. I think it was in the morning skate or something. It could have been the night before; but, again, I don't recall it having an effect on us at all. But I think at the end of the game everybody made a big deal out of that. If he really said it, it's a pretty gutsy thing to do."

Messier said it, and then he went out and delivered a hat trick in the third period to seal a 4-2 victory. Game 7 was back at Madison Square Garden and after a goaltending duel between Brodeur and Mike Richter, Stephane Matteau scored a wrap-around winner 4:24 into double overtime.

The rest is history that the Rangers would love to repeat in the coming days and weeks. But, nobody in their dressing room is going to boldly go where Messier did 18 years ago.

In fact, the closest thing there was to a guarantee was Marc Staal saying late Wednesday night, "We'll regroup and get back and get the next one. It'll just take us a little longer."

He meant to win the series, something the Rangers were hoping to do in six games but now will have to settle for doing in seven, if at all. It wasn't all that emphatic of a statement, and certainly not back-page material, even in New York.


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"No disrespect to history, but we're worried about ourselves," Rangers center Brad Richards said Thursday. "We want to create our own story and that's what we're here to do."

Regardless, the similarities to the '94 series are everywhere now.

Just like it was 18 years ago, the Rangers led the Devils 2-1 only to have New Jersey come back and win Game 4 at home and then Game 5 at the Garden. The dates are even set up the exact same with both Game 3s being played on the 19th of May, both Game 4s on the 21st, both Game 5s on the 23rd and both Game 6s on the 25th.

Yes, if there is a Game 7, it will be on May 27 at Madison Square Garden, just like it was 18 years ago.

Brodeur, though, noted the one big difference between the Rangers and Devils of 18 years ago and the Rangers and Devils of now.

"We were not supposed to compete with them at all in '94," Brodeur said. "They made all these trades and they had all these big guys at the end, and they pulled it off in a dramatic way. But this time around, we feel we can play with them. It makes me feel a lot more comfortable going into these games coming up."

He's right in that the Rangers went out and got several big-name players prior to the deadline, including Matteau, Craig MacTavish, Glenn Anderson and Brian Noonan. This year the Rangers stood pat at the deadline, acquiring only John Scott, the tallest black ace.

But the fact is the Devils and Rangers were closer in the regular season in 1994 than they were this season. The Rangers won the President's Trophy with 112 points, but New Jersey had 106 to finish third in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers were tops in the East this season with 109, and New Jersey was seven back in sixth place with 102.

"I don't even think about '94," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "In '94 I still had hair. It was that long ago. That plays no part in what we're doing."

"Not to disrespect what happened, but that has nothing to do with how we're preparing," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.

Except, of course, for the one remaining link between the two series -- Brodeur.

"Nobody knew my name back then," Brodeur said.

They were chanting it loudly Wednesday night at the Garden. Now those same blue-clad fans and all others like them are hoping the 2012 Rangers find a way to equal the 1994 Rangers.

If it does, it won't come with a pre-game guarantee.

Messier is retired.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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