On June 11, 1994 the Rangers had to come back to the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver to play Game 6 against a Vancouver Canucks team that ruined their premature Stanley Cup celebration on home ice in Game 5 (with style). Now, from what I recall the Rangers and their fans were still quite a confident bunch to take Game 6. They were leading the series 3-2 at this point and perhaps Game 5 was just a strange anomaly. Surely the loaded Rangers team would beat the Canucks in Game 6. Rangers fans packed MSG to watch the game on the big screen to watch the inevitable victory.
Lost in the storyline of Game 6, beyond the Linden getting pulverized near the game's end and Jim Robson's "HE WILL PLAY" legendary call, the most infamous Canucks image of all time with Linden and McLean, and Geoff Courtnall's 2-goal performance were the 2 goals scored by defenceman Jeff Brown, who had the name of his newborn daughter scribbled on the tape of his hockey stick. Regardless of the stories and rumors as to why Jeff Brown was ultimately traded from Vancouver (I will not mention it here), he played a colossal roll in the Canucks taking Game 6 and forcing a Canucks-Rangers Game 7.
Some say that this is the best Canucks playoff game ever. Well it is arguably one of their best playoff performances ever, make no mistake. Personally, it isn't my fave performance but my oh my did they get the job done. Let's check out some video.
CBC's pregame is classic. Feel the energy at the Pacific Coliseum:
Here are the Canucks' goals, all 4 of them in a 4-1 win:
Jeff Brown. Thank you very much.
Brown again! That was his 3rd goal in his last 2 games.
Goal 4 was a classic example of why video review is a good thing:
I'll take the 4-1 lead over the 3-2 lead. How things have changed since then hey? Bravo, Courtnall!
What CBC's Bob Cole and Harry Neale did not see was the mugging that captain Trevor Linden took just prior to the game's ending. Legendary Canucks' commentator did not miss it, and a masterpiece play-by-play call ensued:
I miss you Jim Robson. Anyway, let's allow Linden to explain what happened:
"Dougie Lidster had cut me across the chin with his stick earlier in the game so I was already bleeding and then Adam Graves and I collided around our blue-line. It completely knocked the wind out of me and when you get the wind knocked out of you, you can’t breathe, right? So I was just basically trying to crawl to the bench and that’s when Messier kind of rolled over the top of me. After the game, I gave Kirk an embrace and it was just one of those exhausted, relief feelings. The photo really captured that moment. Like they say, one picture is worth a thousand words."
That quote is from the brilliant Elliott Papp article I referred to recently.
So, on to Madison Square Garden for a Game 7, and the Rangers faithful and media alike were not feeling so confident anymore. Their heroes had blown a 3-1 series lead. Here are some MSM quotes via ESPN after that splendid Game 6:
"They've waited 54 years, and now they'll have to wait two more days. Or maybe four more. Or - heaven help us - maybe another half-century. Maybe forever."
-- Ken Rosenthal, then of the Baltimore Sun
"The Stanley Cup finals are down to this: an incredible comeback, a lingering curse and a game seven at Madison Square Garden."
-Mike Nadel, Associated Press
"Maybe there is a curse on the Rangers. Maybe there is a reason they haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1940. Maybe they never will win it. The Rangers built a seemingly insurmountable lead over the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals. Now it's gone."
-- Viv Bernstein, Hartford Courant
"It is a one-game season now for the New York Rangers, who will write history either as the biggest bunch of choking dogs or the most memorable group of players the franchise ever assembled."
-- Frank Brown, New York Daily News
A couple Canucks players made it very clear that the arrogance of the Rangers and their fans and media were a motivating factor.
"The party is delayed. And hopefully it will be delayed until next year."
-- Canucks center Murray Craven
"The party doesn't start until we have our say. All the talk about the party and the parade that was going to go on, that was enough. It was what we needed. It really brought our team closer together."
-- Canucks captain Trevor Linden
All of that prior to internet and social media. Think about it. Newspapers and no social media! How times have changed.
Here is the BOXSCORE from Game 6. Brown and Courtnall did the damage, as did Kirk McLean. Courtnall's +3 rating led the team. Bure had 1 assist and 6 shots. Nathan Lafayette had his 3rd assist in his last 2 games. But his big story was yet to come, and you old-schoolers know what I'm talking about.
Whatever. 20 years ago today, the Canucks kicked the Rangers' asses and forced a Game 7. It was a beautiful thing.
Finally, check out a young, punk-ass John Shorthouse doing the game recap on Sports Page:
How Shortie has evolved lyrically, hey? Ah....look at the celebrations in Vancouver. Such peaceful fans!
Next up: Game 7 and all of it's glory. Sure, many of you look back at it as a scar. Fair enough, but I will offer the best positive spin possible.