July 13, 2013

1994 Vancouver Canucks: New York: All The World Is A Stage

The following is an excerpt from my unreleased book: Remembering The 1994 Vancouver Canucks. Please see below for the full table of contents.

Game One was held in Madison Square Garden. The Canucks showed a bit of rust throughout the game as they had a long layoff, giving the Rangers an early series advantage. But Kirk McLean showed absolutely no rust as he stymied the Rangers time and time again. 52 saves McLean made in total in game one. He kept the Canucks in the game and forced overtime. His goaltending performance in that game is now considered to be one of the magical moments in playoff history. With just 30 seconds left in the first overtime period, Greg Adams, the Canucks overtime hero time and time again, stepped into a shot that wired past Ranger goalie Mike Richter. Much to everyone's surprise, the Canucks stole a victory from the heavily favored New York Rangers!

The unfortunate part about game one and the goaltending heroics is that the rest of the team didn't play that well. And that trend would continue in the next three games. Game two was a 3-1 victory for the Rangers. The score flattered the Canucks performance. Game 3 was controversial in that the Canucks exploded out of the gate but then Pavel Bure was kicked out of the game for a highstick on Glenn Anderson. That seemed to swing the momentum back into the Rangers favor and they went on to win the game rather easily, 5-1.
Game 4 saw the Canucks come out hard but Brian Leetch, the eventual Conn Smythe Trophy winner, took control half way through the game. A major turning point was in the second period when Pavel Bure was stopped by Mike Richter on a rare Stanley Cup penalty shot. The Rangers won the game 4-2 and had a stranglehold on the series, 3 games to 1.

The Canucks were previously down 3 games to 1 in the Calgary series, and managed to come back. That was the task they faced again, only no one expected it. The Rangers appeared to be playing at a level higher than the Canucks, and New Yorkers were already beginning to celebrate their first Cup in 54 years.

Game 5 was played in New York, and you know the Rangers wanted to clinch the series on home ice. The Rangers stormed out to take a 3-1 lead after one period. But the second period was one of the wildest periods in Finals history. The Canucks exploded for 5 goals, led by Pavel Bure and Geoff Courtnall with two apiece. The Canucks then shut the door and won the game 6-3. The Rangers' victory parade was cancelled.
Game 6 saw the Canucks come home to the boisterous Pacific Coliseum. The task was simple. Win and you play game 7, lose and that's it.

Game 6 was an incredible display of playoff emotion by both teams. The Canucks handled the Rangers surprisingly easily in the first period, landing 15 shots on Mike Richter, but only coming out of the period with a 1-0 lead. Geoff Courtnall would make it a 2-0 lead early in the second only to watch Alexei Kovalev narrow the lead to 2-1. Canuck Captain Trevor Linden out-hustled Mark Messier behind the Ranger net and got the puck to Jeff Brown who made it 3-1. The fans were going crazy, the Canucks had all the momentum.

Then one of the weirdest plays in playoff history occurred. Geoff Courtnall rang the puck off of the inner crossbar of the net and started celebrating another goal. The only problem was the puck bounced in and out of the net so quickly that the referee assumed it hit the outside crossbar. Meanwhile the Rangers took the puck and went to the other end of the ice and Mark Messier subsequently scored a goal too! The Canucks persuaded the referee to do a video review on Courtnall's shot and it was then that it was revealed that Courtnall had indeed scored! So Courtnall's goal counted, and it was 4-1, not 3-2 had the Rangers goal counted!

That play seemed to take the remaining wind out of the Rangers sails for that game. The Canucks hung on to win 4-1 in what is generally agreed to be the greatest game in Vancouver Canuck history.

Game 7 was to be played in Madison Square Gardens. Perhaps the most exciting Stanley Cup Finals in a long time came down to a game 7. Unfortunately for the Canucks, their brush with glory came just short. The Rangers held an edge from the beginning of the game. Trevor Linden potted both Vancouver Canuck goals as the Rangers held onto a 3-2 lead late in the game. With 1:10 left in the third period, Geoff Courtnall placed a perfect pass on Nathan Lafayette's stick. The New Westminister rookie rung the puck off of the goal post. Had it been a centimeter over the other way, the Canucks would have forced overtime. The Rangers clinged to their lead, and eventually time ran out on the Canucks.

The Canucks went home devastated and empty handed as the Rangers partied for days. What an awful feeling to get so close and walk away with nothing, yet knowing they were every bit as good as the Rangers.

June 11th/14th, 1994 - The Highs, The Lows

Bure-ing The Flames
The Russian Rocket
Captain Kirk

Shooting Down The Stars
The Elbow
The Mighty Pat Quinn
Cliff Ronning: The Little Man That Could

Be-Leaf It Or Not!
Forever A Canuck: Trevor Linden
Greg Adams! Greg Adams!

New York: All The World Is A Stage
The Penalty Shot
Nathan Lafayette And That Damn Goal Post
What A Mess!
Doug Lidster: The Lone Ranger
It Was A Riot!

June 15th, 2011: Looking Back At 1994

No comments: