By Mike Harrington
It was 20 years ago Tuesday that the New York Rangers last made the Stanley Cup final. They beat the Devils in Game Seven of the 1994 Eastern Conference final on Stephane Matteau's goal in double overtime -- and broadcaster Howie Rose's wild call of "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau" is ingrained in New York lore as the Rangers' fans version of Rick Jeanneret's "May Day" is here.
The Rangers can reach that "one more hill to climb, baby" again tonight with a win over Montreal in Game Six at Madison Square Garden. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist got pulled in the Blueshirts' 7-4 loss in Game Five but former backup and longtime ex-Sabre Martin Biron says Lundqvist has already put Game Five away.
In the New York Post, Larry Brooks says this is the most important hockey game played in New York since that magical spring of '94. Oddly enough, Brooks was on the Devils beat for the paper back in '94.
The Canadiens, of course, are desperate to force Game Seven Saturday night in Bell Centre. But they would play that one without beloved anthem singer Ginette Reno, who has a concert at the same time and will be singing "O, Canada!" by video.
The league announced Wednesday that the Stanley Cup final will open next Wednesday and could stretch to Game Seven on June 18 (yeesh). The home-ice scenarios, all based on regular-season records, are as follows:
---If Chicago makes the final, it will open as the home team.
---If the Rangers make the final, they will open as the road team.
---If the final pits Montreal and Los Angeles, the Canadiens will be the home team (both clubs went 46-28-8 in the regular season but Montreal had more regulation/overtime wins, 40-38). The Habs had home ice in 1993 when they beat the Wayne Gretzky-led Kings in five games to win their most recent championship.