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NHL Centennial

Devils-Rangers showdown 23 years ago still unforgettable today

NHL.com's Shawn P. Roarke lists Game 7 of Eastern Conference Final on May 27, 1994, as most memorable

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

Editor's note: As part of the League's Centennial celebration, NHL.com staff members were asked to write about their favorite Stanley Cup Playoff memory. Today, Director of Editorial Shawn P. Roarke looks back to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final between the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers on May 27, 1994.

 

I've been lucky enough to cover more than 100 Stanley Cup Playoff games during my career, but none was more memorable than Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers on May 27, 1994.

Sitting in the rickety, cramped main press box above the Zamboni entrance at Madison Square Garden, I had no idea of the drama that awaited in Game 7. It was my first full-time season on the hockey beat and somehow I had a prime seat for the biggest game I could have ever imagined, a 2-1 double-overtime win by the Rangers.

 

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I had to re-do my game story celebrating New York's next step toward its first Stanley Cup in 54 years when New Jersey forward Valeri Zelepukin scored with 7.7 seconds remaining in the third period, a goal that silenced the raucous arena and gave renewed life to thoughts of 1940 and "The Curse."

The first overtime was edge-of-the-seat drama as one mistake, or one flash of brilliance, could end it. The play resembled two laboring heavyweight boxers shuffling around the ring, probing for an opening to land a haymaker to end the fight, then falling into a clinch to recuperate whenever energy reserves waned.

The second overtime, the third double-OT game of the series, was even more frenetic. Rangers captain Mark Messier should have won it early in the period but was denied after a brilliant recovery by Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. Devils forward John MacLean picked up a rebound and had an open net, but at the last instant Rangers goalie Mike Richter desperately pushed the puck out of harm's way.

Video: Memories: Matteau sends Rangers to Stanley Cup Final

The game ended at 4:24 of the second overtime with Rangers forward Stephane Matteau becoming the series hero. He beat Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer to a loose puck and fought off an attempted hook by Niedermayer to get just enough on a shot that banked off Brodeur and into the net.

The goal, as unlikely as it was, ended the game, the series and two weeks of unrelenting drama.

Rangers radio announcer Howie Rose screamed, "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!" in a call for the ages. The Garden faithful rose as one, shaking off decades of frustration. The Devils surrounded Brodeur who collapsed backward into his net after the goal, his 46 saves not enough.

Eventually, the Devils summoned enough energy to stagger through the handshake line and then retreat to their dressing room and take what couldn't have been before a more mournful bus ride back across the Hudson River and into an unwanted summer vacation.

Video: 1993-94 Rangers ended New York's 54-year Cup drought

The journey to the final resolution -- the bad blood, the suspensions, the clutch performances, Messier's guarantee -- made this night more unforgettable than those that have come before and those that followed.

Two weeks later the Rangers won the Stanley Cup, in Game 7, at Madison Square Garden. But that Game 7 couldn't hold a candle to the one from the previous round.

The next year the Devils won the Stanley Cup, their first of three between 1995 and 2003. The Rangers have yet to win another title.

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