The 1994 Rangers are as revered today as they were when they hoisted the Stanley Cup at the Garden 25 years ago, forever etched in New York sports lore for putting an end to the curse of 1940 and taking over the town.
As the Rangers' search for their next Cup continues, the hearts of Rangers fans grow fonder for the '94 team. Their playoff run was full of iconic moments, and with the Rangers celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Cup win before Friday night's game, we take a look back at the top five moments from the '94 playoffs.
5. HOW SWEEP IT IS
After going 1-2-2 against the Islanders during the regular season, the Rangers decimated their rival during a first-round sweep, outscoring the Isles 22-3 across the four games. Eventual Conn Smythe winner Brian Leetch had eight points in the series.
The Rangers won Games 1 and 2 by the same score, 6-0, with six different goal-scorers in each contest. The Isles fared no better at the Coliseum, losing 5-1 and 5-2 as their postseason was finished in a span of eight days. Mike Richter stopped 87 of 90 shots in the series.
It was an emphatic win for a Rangers franchise which had the cloud of 1940 hovering over them while the Islanders had a dynasty in the 1980s with four straight Stanley Cup wins. The Rangers had beaten the Islanders in the first round of the 1990 playoffs, but that was after they lost to the Isles in four straight postseasons from 1981-84.
4. THE SAVE
There is one Richter feat, of which there were many from this postseason, that stands above the rest: his spectacular save against Pavel Bure on a penalty shot during Game 4 of the Cup Final on June 7.
The Rangers were trailing 2-1 in the middle of the second period when Leetch tripped Bure on a breakaway, prompting a penalty-shot decision from one of the referees.
Bure raced toward goal as Richter came out beyond his crease before slowly creeping back as Bure approached. Bure tried to beat Richter stick side, but Richter stretched out his right pad to deny the Russian Rocket and keep the Blueshirts within one in Vancouver.
The MSG TV broadcast then cut to the arena viewing party at the Garden where Richter was receiving a standing ovation on the other side of the continent. Teammates immediately came over and patted Richter on the head.
The Rangers tied the game late in the second and scored twice in the third to win 4-2 and take a 3-1 series lead.
3. MATTEAU! MATTEAU! MATTEAU!
The Rangers were good before the 1993-94 deadline, but head coach Mike Keenan knew they weren't good enough to go all the way and wanted tougher players who better fit his style. GM Neil Smith obliged by bringing in Glenn Anderson, Craig MacTavish, Brian Noonan and Stephane Matteau, shipping out the likes of future Hall of Famer Mike Gartner and Tony Amonte to get the right mix of players for a championship run.
Matteau, in particular, was someone Keenan had asked for throughout the season. Keenan coached Matteau in Chicago when they reached the 1992 Cup Final.
As it turned out, all the right buttons were pushed, and it was Matteau at the center of it all On May 27 when he scored his wraparound goal in double overtime of Game 7 in the conference final to send the Rangers to the Cup Final for the first time since 1979.
Howie Rose's radio call became just as iconic, becoming inextricably linked with Matteau's heroics. "He scores! Matteau! Matteau! Matteau! Stephane Matteau! And the Rangers have one more hill to climb baby, and it's Mount Vancouver! The Rangers are headed to the finals!"
2. THE GUARANTEE
On May 24, a day before the Rangers went to the Meadowlands trailing the Devils 3-2 in the conference final, Mark Messier delivered one of the boldest proclamations in New York sports history, certainly the boldest since Joe Namath's Super Bowl guarantee in 1969.
"We're going to go in and win Game 6," Messier declared, knowing full well what that meant and how many people would see those words the next day in the papers. The back page of the Daily News read "MESS SEZ WE'LL WIN" while the Post's said "WE'LL WIN TONIGHT."
And they did, only after going down 2-0, thanks to the Captain backing up his bravado with a hat trick, everything a New York fan could want from its leader. They had to win, and the early deficit didn't deter the Rangers, who did exactly what Messier said they would do despite all the pressure he put on he and his teammates a day earlier.
1. THE WAITING IS OVER!
At last, on June 14, 1994 the Rangers ended the drought, capturing their first Stanley Cup since 1940, winning it at the Garden after their 3-1 series lead slipped away to force a Game 7.
Messier scored what turned out to be the decisive power-play goal at 13:29 of the second, putting the Rangers up 3-1 before Vancouver scored in the third.
MacTavish, sans helmet (he was the last NHL player to play without one), took the final draw in the Rangers' zone against Bure with 1.6 seconds left, blocking Bure off as the final deciseconds ticked away and the Garden exploded in jubilation. Fans turned out in droves three days later for the parade down the Canyon of Heroes.
Messier, Richter, Leetch, Adam Graves and the rest of the squad became instant legends in New York, their exploits still discussed admiringly to this day. Sam Rosen put an exclamation point on the moment with this: "The waiting is over! The New York Rangers are the Stanley Cup champions! And this one will last a lifetime!"