Fifty-four years before Mark Messier and Stephane Mattheau scored dramatic goals to help the New York Rangers win the Stanley Cup in 1994, Bryan Hextall staged his own heroics.
On April 13, 1940, Hextall, the grandfather of Philadelphia Flyers general manager and former NHL goalie Ron Hextall, scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"When you think about how many kids grow up, and I was one of them, playing hockey on the street, dreaming about scoring the winning goal," Ron Hextall said, "it is a big deal. Certainly it's a big deal for our family. I think anybody who has ever scored one would say it's a big deal."
Bryan Hextall, a forward, was 26 during the 1939-40 season when he led the NHL with 24 goals in 48 games. He helped the Rangers defeat the Boston Bruins in six games in the best-of-7 NHL Semifinals.
Against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers won the first two games at Madison Square Garden.
The Maple Leafs evened the series with wins in Games 3 and 4 at Maple Leaf Gardens. With the circus taking over MSG, the series remained in Toronto, and the Rangers won Game 5, 2-1 in double overtime.
Overtime was needed again in Game 6, but Hextall made sure it was a shorter night. At 2:07 of extra time he beat Maple Leafs goalie Turk Broda to give the Rangers a 3-2 victory.
Prior to Hextall's goal, the Stanley Cup had been decided on an overtime goal twice; Bill Cook of the Rangers did it in Game 4 of the 1933 Final and Mush March of the Chicago Black Hawks scored in Game 4 of the 1934 Final. It has happened 17 times in NHL history, most recently by Alec Martinez of the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of the 2014 Final against the Rangers.
"How many players have the opportunity to score a winning goal in the Stanley Cup Final? Doesn't happen very often, obviously," Ron Hextall said. "It means a lot for our family."
Bryan Hextall spent his entire 11-season NHL career with the Rangers. He led the League with 26 goals in 1940-41 and led the League with 56 points (24 goals, 32 assists) in 1941-42. He finished his career with 362 points (187 goals, 175 assists) in 449 games.
"My grandfather was a quiet man, he was a humble man, he was an unassuming man," said Ron Hextall, who played for the Flyers, Quebec Nordiques and New York Islanders over a 13-season career. "For me, we would talk about present-day more so. I think he was uncomfortable talking about himself."
Hextall's goal gave the Rangers their third Stanley Cup championship, but it would be 54 years until they won again.
Messier scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vancouver Canucks and a hat trick in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New Jersey Devils to keep New York's season alive. Matteau scored in double overtime of Game 7 against the Devils to send the Rangers to the Cup Final.
The Rangers defeated Ron Hextall and the Islanders in the first round of the 1994 playoffs.
"My grandfather really didn't talk about it [but] when I talk to my father about it he doesn't soft-sell it," he said. "He's excited about it, always has been. He'll get into the type of player my grandfather was, and how good he was."