- Last Updated: 12:22 PM, May 25, 2012
- Posted: 2:07 AM, May 25, 2012
So I am reading my contemporaneous notes from 18 years ago tonight because, as Rangers’ coach John Tortorella once told me out of a sense of exasperation not to be mistaken for admiration, “everything stays in that pad of yours.”
And as I peruse shorthand that probably only I can read from the second period of the most famous Game 6 ever played indoors around these parts, I am struck by a series of blue asterisks, blue exclamation points and red arrows, one after another, almost filling a page, and all refreshing memories.
l 3:00, Richter! Stevens backhand!”
l “Richter! Stick on Nieder through traffic!”
l 5:00, Richter pad save Mac from slot, had top half!!”
l “5:39, Rangers call time!!!”
l “Chorske post … Carpenter in front … Richter! Devils’ domination!”
l “16:20, Bernie out of box, rising slap left circle … Richter!!”
l “18:00, Another 2-on-1, 25 with 12, keeps, shot … Richter!”
It was 2-0 Devils in the second period of Game 6 at the Meadowlands on May 25, 1994, it stayed 2-0 Devils until Alex Kovalev scored at 18:19 (“It’s 2-1!”) and then Mr. We’ll Win Tonight scored a third-period hat trick to make history that can never quite be recreated except that there is one bit of history that must be recreated in New Jersey tonight if the Rangers have any chance to keep this wonderful season alive, and that quite simply is that my notebook must be filled with asterisks and arrows pointing to “Henrik!!!”
(Easier to write repeatedly than, “Lundqvist!”)
On this night, in this Game 6, for this Ranger team that doesn’t do guarantees, Henrik Lundqvist must be as brilliant facing elimination in the Eastern finals against the Devils and Martin Brodeur in Newark as Mike Richter was 18 years ago tonight at the Meadowlands.
That’s the thread that ties this to that. As Elaine Benes might say, “No this, then no that.”
It was a different time, literally a different place, but the Rangers, who will need their best game of the season in order to defeat a very strong, confident and mature Devils club to force a Game 7 Sunday at the Garden, must have Lundqvist as big against Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique and Ryan Carter as Richter was against Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, John MacLean, Tom Chorske, Bobby Carpenter, Bernie Nicholls and Valeri Zelepukin (wearing No. 25, with Billy Guerin, No. 12) within a 15-minute span 18 years ago.
Brad Richards, who simply must elevate his game in dramatic fashion, reminded people that he was 14 in 1994 and was not hooked on the lore.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” the alternate captain said. “We’re worried about ourselves. We want to write our own story.”
Tortorella, who acknowledged awareness of how special the Tale of ’94 is in historic terms, said that unforgettable series and that landmark Game 6 would not leap out of someone’s notebook and make it into his team’s locker room.
“Not for a second,” the coach said. “Not to disrespect what happened, but that has nothing to do with how we’re preparing, I guess is the best way to put it.”
But Tortorella, whose team played chunks of outstanding hockey in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat, also said this about Lundqvist, who allowed goals on three consecutive shots in the first period and on four of 16 overall in Game 5:
“I just know Hank will play his best game.”
There it is. There’s Game 6, 18 years later.
Listen, the Rangers have to get the puck in deep and apply sustained pressure against The Great Brodeur, who has had a fairly comfortable time of it. The Blueshirts must keep their composure in their own end. Derek Stepan, outplayed from the GWB to the Holland Tunnel by Adam Henrique, must come with some game.
Richards, who by his own admission to The Post, “Obviously [hasn’t] been good enough in this series,” simply has to draw on everything he knows and is as a many-monied player, and be the Big Moment leader he’d been in the first two rounds.
But in the crucible, just as in Game 6 in Ottawa on April 23 when the Blueshirts faced first-round elimination, it’s going to be on the team’s best and most important player to be the best player on the ice, regardless of whether the Rangers surrender 15 shots or 45 to a New Jersey team that appears to be peaking at precisely the proper moment and is playing with boundless confidence.
Lundqvist appeared serene following yesterday’s practice, just as he did heading into Games 6 and 7 against the Senators and Game 7 against the Caps, three potential elimination games in which he allowed a total of four goals.
Tonight will be about steadiest nerves, it will be about patience, it will be about fortitude. It will be about 2012 and not 1994, but this Game 6 for the Rangers will be like that Game 6 in this way:
At the end of the night, this new notebook must be filled with asterisks and arrows pointing to “Henrik!!” the way the old one is filled with “Richter!!”