New York Rangers Memories: Matteau! Matteau!

15 Apr 1998: Stephane Matteau Mandatory Credit: Ian Tomlinson /Allsport
15 Apr 1998: Stephane Matteau Mandatory Credit: Ian Tomlinson /Allsport /

24 years ago, Stephane  Matteau scored a goal that will live in New York Rangers history forever.

Two nights prior, the New York Rangers escaped elimination by topping the Devils 4-2 on a hat trick by captain Mark Messier. The guarantee was one of the most memorable nights in franchise history. On the way to the Stanley Cup, however, the Rangers needed one more win to move on to the finals. Well here we are, game seven, for all of the marbles in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.

Mike Richter and Martin Brodeur had been dueling all series long and it continued on this night at Madison Square Garden. After a scoreless first period the Rangers broke the ice. Brian Leetch put one behind Brodeur to give New York the 1-0 lead. Needless to say, MSG was in a frenzy. The Stanley Cup finals were finally on their way! Right?

Well, it seemed that way.

The Rangers held the lead through the second period and through most of the third. The crowd was building. The champagne was ready in the locker room. The building was about to explode with excitement. Then, this happened:

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And just like that, the game was tied. The excitement was over. The game had to go on. 50 years of waiting were going to continue. The Rangers had a trip to the finals in the palm of their hands and it disappeared under the left pad of Richter.

The Garden was stunned. The fans wondered if they had to wait yet another year. 112 points. The President’s Trophy. It was about to all go by the wayside. We can only imagine how the Garden faithful felt as the light went on behind Richter, indicating the tying goal.

Off to overtime we went. Sudden death was upon us. 20 minute overtime periods and the game continues until a goal is scored.

The first overtime was played to a draw. At the time it really wasn’t a surprise. These two teams simply matched up evenly and they had played that way for six games and now four periods of a seventh game. Looking back, it really was what a conference final should be. It was two teams that were clearly the class of the division, fighting it out for the right to represent the conference for the Stanley Cup.

It was a special series that was culminating in now the second overtime period in game seven.

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Early in that second overtime period, we arrived upon the moment that will live on in Rangers glory forever (turn the sound on):

And there it was. The Rangers eliminated the Devils and indeed had “one more hill to climb baby”! It was on to the Stanley Cup finals against the Vancouver Canucks.

Stay tuned for more Rangers memories.