by Stu Hackel Excerpts taken from '1994 - The Official Book of the New York Rangers Championship,' published shortly after the Rangers' 1994 Stanley Cup championship
It was the 10th Game Seven in Stanley Cup Finals history, and the first series to go the distance since 1987. Six Rangers played in that 1987 game and their coach was behind one of the benches. At Monday's practice, Mike Keenan had passionately addressed the players, emphasizing that victory in Game Seven would unite the club forever. Mark Messier would later call it the most powerful speech he'd heard in his years in hockey. "He seized the moment. He took control. We were definitely floundering and the guys were looking for leadership. Mike came through when we needed it the most," said the Ranger captain.
On game night, the tense atmosphere in the Garden differed from the party-like feeling surrounding Game Five. The Rangers made one lineup change: Nick Kypreos was dressed in place of the injured Joey Kocur.
The game started slowly, but by the middle of the first period, the Rangers began to pick up the pace. Brian Leetch fought off a pair of Canuck forecheckers and slipped a pass to Messier on his right. Messier chipped the puck off the boards, eluding Pavel Bure. He picked it up himself and brought the puck down the right side into the Vancouver zone. Messier then circled counter-clockwise away from the net, drawing two checkers to him. He fed a pass to Sergei Zubov, who had stepped into the lane Messier had vacated. Zubov skated freely toward the net and Kirk McLean came out to cut down the angle, but Zubov spotted Leetch, who had moved into the left face-off circle, and threw him a pass. Leetch was at a sharp angle, but McLean, who had lost his balance and was unable to get back into position, couldn't lunge fast enough as Leetch's shot from the lower edge of the circle bulged the twine at 11:02 for a 1-0 Rangers lead. Leetch goal, his 11th of the post-season, left him only one shy of the NHL record for most goals by a defenseman in one playoff year.
After the goal, the Rangers forecheckers went to work - the Craig MacTavish-Brian Noonan-Esa Tikkanen line playing effectively down low, drawing Jyrki Lumme into a cross-checking infraction. On the ensuing power play, Zubov rushed the puck through center and advanced it between Murray Craven and Jeff Brown as they converged on him. Alex Kovalev picked up the puck in the left circle and slipped a pass to Adam Graves, who was skating alone in the slot. His 15-footer beat McLean to the low stick side at 14:45 and the Rangers led 2-0. It was Graves' first goal in 10 games.
Vancouver applied pressure as the period waned. Bure circled into the slot for a shot that Mike Richter stopped, and the rebound came to Craven at the right of the net. With Jeff Beukeboom defending the goal, Craven pushed the puck under him, but it rolled through the crease inches from the goal line before the Rangers cleared it to safety.
Early in the second period, Beukeboom collided with Shawn Antoski along the boards. Once again, Beukeboom would be lost for the night, not because of a penalty but because of a knee injury.
The Rangers controlled play early in the period. Brown took an interference penalty at 4:38. During the power play, the Rangers were called for a delayed penalty and McLean left the net for an extra attacker. Trevor Linden took a pass from Bure, put his shoulder down to fend off Leetch, moved the puck from his forehand to backhand and flipped it past Richter at 5:21 to narrow the margin to 2-1.
Later in the period, with Dave Babych off for tripping, Noonan cut through the slot with the puck and a scramble developed. McLean stopped Noonan and Graves poked at the rebound before it came to Messier at the side of the net. He jabbed at it and, as John McIntyre tried to smother puck, it caromed off McIntyre's leg and into the net for a 3-1 lead at 13:29.
With a two-goal lead restored, Richter stopped Gerald Diduck and the foiled Cliff Ronning, stacking his pads on the rebound. A late period penalty to Messier was killed so effectively that the Canucks could not gain the zone and set up.
Determined not to fall into a defensive shell, the Rangers came out strong for the third period. Just past the four-minute mark, Tikkanen lost the puck to Bure and was forced to take a penalty for hauling down the Russian Rocket. Ronning, Brown, and Russ Courtnall passed smartly and Linden finished the play at 4:50 to make the score 3-2.
Vancouver pressed, looking for the tying goal. Richter stopped Nathan Lafayette's close-in attempt as the Rangers began to slow the pace of the game with determined defensive play. Steve Larmer and MacTavish were particularly effective. Larmer turned defense to offense with two good mid-period scoring chances - one which hit the post - while MacTavish won key face-offs and took Linden off the ice with coincidental minors.
With the minutes ticking down, Vancouver turned the heat up once again as Zubov stopped Bure one-on-one and Richter kicked out a shot by Brown. With less that seven minutes to go, Ronning passed to Martin Gelinas, whose shot at the wide-open net grazed the post as Richter dove to his left. With six minutes remaining, Lafayette's one-timer forced Richter into a full stretch, and again the puck changed off the post. But the Rangers defense held, forcing the play out of danger time and time again.
The crowd roared as the call of "Last minute of play in the period," filtered through the World's Most Famous Arena. McLean sprinted to the bench for an extra attacker. A succession on icing calls, reminiscent of past playoff games in which the Rangers eventually surrendered a late tying goal, left the crown uneasy.
With only a few seconds remaining, the Rangers cleared the puck, and believing time had expired, began to celebrate with players leaping high in the air despite the fact that icing had been called.
MacTavish and Bure took the game's final face-off in the circle to Richter's right with 1.6 seconds showing on the clock. Linesman Ray Scapinello dropped the puck and MacTavish drew it back to the end boards as the horn surrounded, fireworks exploded, and the Rangers were 1994 Stanley Cup champions.
Two trophy presentations took place at center ice following the game. Leetch, who led all scorers in the 1994 playoffs with 34 points, was named winner of the Conn Smythe Thophy as Playoff MVP. Messier became the first Rangers captain to hoist the Stanley Cup in triumph at Madison Square Garden.
June 14, 1994 ... truly a night to remember in New York Rangers history.
1994 STANLEY CUP FINALS - GAME 7 MADISON SQUARE GARDEN JUNE 14, 1994
FIRST PERIOD 1 - NYR - Leetch 11 (Zubov, Messier) 11:02 2 - NYR - Graves 10 (Kovalev, Zubov) PP 14:45 Penalties: Lumme VAN (cross-checking) 14:03; Hedican VAN (roughing), Tikkanen NYR (roughing) 18:50
SECOND PERIOD 3 - VAN - Linden 11 (Glynn, Bure) SH 5:21 4 - NYR - Messier 12 (Graves, Noonan) PP 13:29 Penalties: Brown VAN (interference) 4:38; Babych VAN (tripping) 12:46; Messier NYR (hooking) 16:39
THIRD PERIOD 5 - VAN - Linden 12 (Courtnall, Ronning) PP 4:50 Penalties: Tikkanen NYR (hooking) 4:16; Linden VAN (roughing), MacTavish NYR (Roughing) 10:55
SHOTS ON GOAL: VANCOUVER 9-12-9=30 RANGERS 12-14-9=35
GOALTENDERS: VAN - McLean (59:03 - L) 32 saves / 3 goals against NYR - Richter (60:00 - W) 28 saves / 2 goals against
POWER PLAY: VAN 1/2 NYR 2/3
Referee: Terry Gregson Linesmen: Kevin Collins, Ray Scapinello Attendance: 18,200