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1994 Stanley Cup Final

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Mark Messier

The NHL 1994 Stanley Cup Final was one of those matchups that figured to be lopsided. On paper it was, but not on the ice. The 1994 New York Rangers came roaring into the Final with a league-best 112-point regular season, a 4-0 Conference Quarterfinals sweep of arch-rival New York Islanders, a 4-1 Conference Semifinals thumping of the Washington Capitals, and a 4-3 Easter Conference series win over the New Jersey Devils.

While things went more or less according to expectations in the East, the Western Conference was a different story. The seventh-seeded Vancouver Canucks knocked off the second-seeded Calgary Flames 4-3 after falling behind 3-1 in the first round, then beat the Dallas Stars 4-1, and then did the same to the Toronto Maple Leafs to make 1994 a Vancouver Canucks Stanley Cup year.

As great as it was for Vancouver fans to see the Canucks in the Stanley Cup, it figured to be a Rangers Stanley Cup 1994 victory. The Rangers were loaded. In addition to captain Mark Messier, the team had standouts Glenn Anderson, Esa Tikkanen, Brian Leetch, Adam Graves and Craig MacTavish. Perhaps the only thing working against the Rangers was the fact it had been an agonizingly long 54 years since their last Stanley Cup win.

The Canucks, in contrast, were making only their second appearance ever in a Final series, had never won the championship and had fewer veteran players with Final experience. Nevertheless, they fought hard during the earlier rounds to knock off tough opponents and had some top-level talent of their own, including Pavel Bure, Geoff Courtnall, Trevor Linden and Dave Babych.

The 1994 New York Rangers were coached by Mike Keenan; the Canucks by Pat Quinn.

1994 Stanley Cup — Finals Recap

  • Game 1 was played May 31 at Madison Square Garden, and Vancouver came out swinging. Down 2-1 late in the third period, Martin Gelinas scored for the Canucks with under a minute to play, sending the game into overtime. Leetch scored late in OT to give the Canucks a 1-0 series lead. Vancouver goalie Kirk McLean made 52 saves, and Rangers fans might have been wondering how their team was going to end their championship drought.
  • Game 2 was played June 2 at MSG, and the Rangers tied the series with a 3-1 win. Sergio Momesso scored for the Canucks; Doug Lidster, Anderson and Leetch scored for the Rangers.
  • Game 3 shifted to Vancouver and was played June 4. This was a statement game for the Rangers, who came out of enemy territory with a 5-1 win. Vancouver lost Bure for the game after a stick to the face cut Rangers defenseman Jay Wells, and New York took full advantage. The Rangers were now up 2-1 in the series.
  • Game 4 was played on June 7 in Vancouver. Again, the Rangers won, this time by a score of 4-2. New York overcame a 2-0 deficit in the game, and skated off the ice with a commanding series lead of 3-1. But the Canucks had been coming back all throughout the playoffs — could they do it one more time?
  • Game 5 was back in New York on June 9. Vancouver continued to show resilience with a solid 6-3 win, disappointing the hometown fans who may have thought they were showing up for a coronation. The Canucks controlled almost the whole game, taking a 3-0 lead into the third period before the Rangers tried to fight their way back. It was not to be. Still no Stanley Cup for the Rangers.
  • Game 6 was back at the Pacific Coliseum on June 11. Could the Canucks force a Game 7? Yes. Vancouver again frustrated the Rangers with a 4-1 win. If the Rangers were going to get their first Cup since 1940, they would have to earn it.
  • Game 7 was played on June 14 at MSG — only the 10th time the Stanley Cup Final had reached a seventh game in NHL history. New York took an early 2-0 lead on goals by Leetch and Adam Graves before Vancouver responded with a short-handed goal by Linden in the second period. Messier made it 3-1 with a power-play goal late in the second period, and Linden scored on a Canucks power play in the third to make it 3-2. And that, much to the joy of the New York players and fans, was the way the game ended — with the Rangers taking the series 4-3 and hoisting the Cup for the first time since World War II. The Canucks had nothing to be ashamed of, though: Vancouver took a great team the distance and got closer to a Stanley Cup than a seventh-seed figured to get. It was a memorable and hard-fought series for hockey fans on both coasts and everywhere in between.

(Image Credit – NHL.com)