On this day in Rangers history, the Blueshirts dominated Game 3 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final to gain a 2-1 series lead.
Although the Rangers would skate to a 5-1 victory, Canucks fans created an intimidating atmosphere inside Pacific Coliseum and everything went Vancouver’s way in the early minutes.
The noise was deafening when Kirk McLean denied a Brian Leetch breakaway chance that came 30 minutes into the contest. Then, with just over a minute gone – Pavel Bure used his all-world speed to find separation and beat Mike Richter through the five hole to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead.
Bure’s goal lifted the building’s decibel level to an even higher pitch. Pacific Coliseum was a sea of waving white rally towels. The Canucks responded with fast legs and frenzied energy as the opening period progressed.
A moment of fortune allowed the Rangers to even the contest. At 13:39, an odd bounce off the arm of McLean resulted in a Leetch goal and a tied game.
Yet, another swing of Bure’s stick ultimately shifted Game 3 in an entirely different direction. Bure was ejected at 18:21 of the first period after his high stick caught Rangers defenseman Jay Wells just above the left eye. Blood streamed down Wells’ face and the incident left him with a broken nose.
The Canucks suddenly had to press on without their 60-goal man and superstar forward. Bure would finish the 1994 playoffs with 31 points in 24 games. “The Russian Rocket’s” blazing speed and tenacious style of play fueled the Canucks and electrified Pacific Coliseum. Without him, Vancouver was an entirely different team.
As the final seconds of the first period ticked away, Glenn Anderson deflected a Sergei Nemchinov shot past McLean’s legs. The Rangers entered the first intermission break with a 2-1 lead that few could have foreseen when the Canucks commanded the early proceedings.
With Bure unable to influence the game from the dressing room, McLean was forced into a difficult situation as the Rangers unloaded on Vancouver’s goal throughout the second period. The Blueshirts kept chipping away and would be rewarded in the form of a two-goal lead late in the middle frame.
McLean was unable to corral a hard shot by Esa Tikkanen. Leetch darted to the rebound and netted a backhanded effort to increase the Rangers’ advantage to 3-1.
The influential defenseman was seemingly always in the right place at the right time throughout the Rangers’ run to glory. Leetch would finish the 1994 playoffs with a leading 34 points and Conn Smyth Trophy honors.
It only took 25 seconds of the third period for the Rangers to put the game out of reach. An innocent dump-in by Steve Larmer took a series of bounces off multiple Canucks and pinballed its way past McLean. It was that kind of night for the Canucks. Alexei Kovalev would put a bow on the 5-1 win with a power play tally.
With a bit of luck on their side, the Rangers played an ideal road game. With two finals wins in the books, the Blueshirts were halfway to ending a 54-year Stanley Cup drought.
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