“And This One Will Last A Lifetime!”
Before the celebration, before the most emotional call a television personality has uttered in the last 25-years, there was one final face-off.
“Here it is…The waiting is over! The New York Rangers are Stanley Cup Champions! And this one will last a lifetime! No more curses, this is unbelievable! These people have waited a long time! Fans, players, coaches…this is unbelievable! Let the celebration begin!” – Sam Rosen and John Davidson
The 1993-94 New York Rangers were a team that inspired a city and a fan base. It inspired those watching to believe that your dreams can indeed come true. An ecstatic fan held up a sign after time expired that read: “Now I Can Die In Peace.”A regular-season that saw the franchise win the President’s Trophy, gave way to one of the most emotional roller-coasters of a postseason that has ever been played, let alone witnessed.
1994 Playoffs Rounds 1-2
A first-round sweep of the rival NY Islanders was a precursor for things to come. From there, the Blueshirts took down the Washington Capitals in five games. This playoff series set the stage for the more recent postseason battles between Alexander Ovechkin and Henrik Lundqvist.
Eastern Conference FinalOnto the Eastern Conference Finals against their hated New Jersey Devils. A back-and-forth series saw numerous overtime periods, but the one that proved to be most prophetic was in Game 3. As the teams battled late into the night a question arose, who would be the hero? In double-overtime, the prayers of Rangers fans were answered. Their savior, at least for one night, was Stephane Matteau. A midseason trade acquisition from Chicago, Matteau would earn his place in Rangers’ lore.
With that, a legend was born, but his tale wasn’t complete. The win gave the Blueshirts a 2-1 series lead.
Mark Messier and Stephane Matteau
New Jersey would storm back to take a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6. And with the Blueshirts facing elimination, captain Mark Messier said to the New York Media, “We will win Game 6.” Splashed across the back page of every newspaper in town on the morning of May 25th, 1994 was a picture of Messier with the quote “We’ll Win Tonight.”The Devils were determined to make Mark eat his words, taking a 2-1 lead into the third period. It was then that the “Messiah” delivered. A third-period natural hat-trick gave the Rangers a season-saving 4-2 victory. This series was going the full seven.
Brian Leetch scored early in the first period to give the Blueshirts a 1-0 lead. They would take that lead into the waning seconds of the third period. It was then, with 7.7 seconds remaining, the Devils broke the hearts of Rangerstown as Valeri Zelepukin tied the game.
This game was headed to overtime!
The first OT-period came and went without a winner, and the game was headed for double-OT. The Rangers stormed the Devils’ zone early and often but were unable to beat a young Martin Brodeur. Who would be the knight In shining armor on this spring evening?
Legendary announcer Howe Rose gave us the answer as he captured the moment with this iconic call. “Fetisov plays across ice into the far corner. Matteau swoops in to intercept, Matteau behind the net, swings it in front…he scores! MATTEAU! MATTEAU! MATTEAU! Stephane Matteau…And the Rangers have one more hill to climb baby, but it’s Mt. Vancouver! The Rangers are headed to the Finals!”
Just like that, the legend of Stephane Matteau was now complete. The only thing remaining was for the Rangers to capture hockey’s ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup.
After needing seven-games to put away the Devils, it was only fitting that the series with Vancouver also went seven-games. Game 7 took place at Madison Square Garden, and it was a game that those in attendance won’t soon forget.
Rangers’ defenseman Brian Leetch opened the scoring in the first period with a goal into Vancouver’s exposed net for the 1-0 lead. Winger Adam Graves would soon add on to make it 2-0 New York on the power play.
In the second period, Canucks captain Trevor Linden scored to cut the Rangers lead in half. Rangers captain Mark Messier would answer right back to make it 3-1 Blueshirts heading into the third period.
20-minutes away from the franchise’s first championship in 54 years, the Rangers, and their fans, were holding a two-goal lead. But it did not last very long. Linden would score early in the period to make it 3-2, and thus the tension at Madison Square Garden rose to pulsating levels. Just moments earlier, fans had been chanting, “We want the Cup!” Now, they were dead silent. The Garden faithful was scared, and the collective breaths of New Yorkers everywhere was being held.
As time wound down, the Canucks went on the attack and hit the post numerous times. With under 30 seconds to go, reality began to set in; the Rangers were going to win the Stanley Cup. As they cleared the zone and sent the puck down the ice, it was finally their time, the Rangers were Stanley Cup champions! Not so fast; icing had been called and the clock had stopped with 1.1 seconds left on the clock. As Rangers’ fans were screaming profanities at the referees, the Blueshirts prepared for one more face-off, deep in their own zone. The referees added 0.5 seconds to the clock for a total of 1.6 seconds remaining.
The puck was dropped, and play-by-play announcer Sam Rosen, along with analyst and former Rangers goaltender John Davidson, captured the moment to perfection.
“The waiting is over! The New York Rangers are Stanley Cup Champions! And this one will last a lifetime! No more curses, this is unbelievable!” – Sam Rosen and John Davidson
Commissioner Gary Bettman would then sum it up perfectly, as he came onto the ice to present Lord Stanley’s fabled chalice.
“Well New York, your long wait is finally over…Captain Mark Messier, come get the Stanley Cup!”
This post originated on nysports247.blogspot.com