After watching the Kings dismantle the Rangers again tonight to take a 3-0 series lead, I came across a sweet article by the Vancouver Sun's Elliott Papp. It's a recollection of the Canucks' kick ass playoff run in 1994, 20 years ago (already), that includes quotes from some of the Canucks players from that team. Check it out. Today (which will be yesterday by the time this is published), June 9, is the 20th anniversary of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Rangers and Canucks. I'm not going to get into too much detail. I am going to provide the basics, especially for any of you poor souls who were either not born yet, or were too young to remember it.
The Canucks got a 52-save performance from Captain Kirk McLean in Game 1 in New York:
Unreal, and if you didn't watch the clip, the game went to overtime. Check out how it ended:
Greg Adams...you beast! Assisted by Ronning and Bure, who had let Leetch skates past him when Leetch hit the crossbar. Adams had raked the Leafs in the previous game:
What a stud.
11 of the Ranger players had played in a Stanley Cup Finals game before. ELEVEN! A whole bunch of former Oilers: (Messier, Anderson, MacTavish, Lowe, Tikkanen, Graves, Beukeboom) and Blackhawks (Larmer, Matteau, Hudson, Noonan, Gilbert) to name some. The Blackhawks connection was significant because Mike Keenan coached them to the Finals in 1992. The Rangers were hockey's version of the New York Yankees back then, and for years to come.
Why bring that up? Well, because the Rangers finished in top spot in the NHL in 1994, and the Canucks squeaked in. There was a colossal 27 point difference between the 2 teams, which was the biggest differential between 2 teams in the Finals since...wait for it...1982!
The '94 Canucks blasted through teams that all finished ahead of them in the standings on their way to the Final (Flames, Stars, Leafs), but it was these Rangers that were supreme on paper.
Check out this shiz!
Check out this shiz!
So after that Game 1 upset of sorts, the Rangers came on. In fact, they won Games 2, 3, and 4 by 3-1, 5-1 and 4-2 margins. It was a huge Mike Richter (Rangers goaltender) and Brian Leetch show. It looked like the Canucks were going to get squished early.
Then Game 5 happened. In New York. The parade was already being planned. The thousands in attendance, including the media expected the Cup to be won that night on home ice. The Canucks were aware of this treachery, and they fed off of it. There is no single Youtube vid of all the highlights of that game, which is unfortunate. But there are individual vids of each Canucks goal scored that night. Ready? Let's go!
Ronning could sure dish the puck, hey? Easily one of the best centers the Canucks ever had.
Dick Irvin said it best: "How do you think those guys are feeling that spent $4000 a ticket to watch the Cup won here tonight?" I believe that 3-0 goal was scored about 3 minutes into the 3rd period. BUT HOLD THE PHONE! The Rangers would score 3-straight goals (Lidster, Larmer and Messier) in the span of 5:35 to tie the game before the period was half over! Oh shit! The Canucks were about to gaff the biggest gaffing gaff in their history! The Rangers fans smelled blood and were going ape-shit! The Stanley Cup was coming to center ice this night! The 54-year curse was over!
29 seconds later:
Dave Babych! Babych told Papp in his super article:
"Obviously as a defenceman, you have to be fairly responsible so you don’t go up ice unless you see an opportunity. Pavel had the puck along the boards and I had a wide open lane so I thought: ‘What the heck?’ Pavel passed the puck to me and I think he expected me to pass it back. Percentages would say that might have been the smart play. But when I looked at the net, Mike Richter was already cheating back to Pavel just a hair and I went shortside along the ice. After the goal, Pavel jumped so high, I had to catch him and, with his momentum, I fell over like a slow-cut tree. I landed on my elbow and hyper-extended it so bad I honestly thought I wasn’t going to be able to play the next couple of games. I remember going home with my arm down by my side and my wife saying: ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ But with a little magic medicine, it all worked out."
Classic stuff right there!
The goals kept coming for the Canucks:
Ooo..love the sound of silence at MSG after that one. Love the juicy rebounds by Richter. Got any more of those for us, Mike?
Yes you do, Mikey! Yes you do! I have no idea how the Rangers fell apart so badly defensively, but I remember watching that third period in disbelief by all of the goals I had just witnessed! Nuts!
Here is the BOXSCORE for Game 5 thanks to the kick ass HockeyReference.com.
-Brian Leetch a -3! Yay!
-2 goals, 1 assist and 7 shots for Pavel Bure.
-2 goals and 8 shots for Geoff Courtnall.
So, in conclusion, 20 years ago today, the Canucks and their fans lived to see another day, forcing a Game 6 back in Vancouver.