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February 8, 2019

Matteau! Matteau! Matteau! Still A Blur

Let the celebration begin — on the ice and in the seats — as Stéphane Matteau puts the Rangers within reach of the Stanley Cup, with "one more hill to climb baby." (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

By now, you might have thought that Stéphane Matteau, having retold the tale and rewatched the play — “what, ten thousand times,” he says — would have figured out exactly how it all unfolded. But he still sees it in flashes. A broken play. Puck ricochets. Other skaters moving away from the puck. His stick on the ice. Spinning. Behind the net. Then, somehow, a push toward the goal.

In those frenzied moments before Matteau brought time to a stop at Madison Square Garden, nothing much made sense.

“Not something I tried, something I hoped,” he says now, reaching one more time for an explanation.

On Friday night, Matteau and the rest of the crew that captured New York’s heart a generation ago are back in town at The Garden for the 25th anniversary celebration of the Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup championship. With one obstacle after the next threatening to stop them cold, they didn’t so much glide toward victory as will it, creating one of MSG’s defining stories.

It would take another breathless seven games against the Vancouver Canucks to win it all, but first the Rangers had to survive a second overtime period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the rival Devils. The date — May 27, 1994. For Matteau, and really for all Ranger fans who lived through those harrowing I-can’t-breathe, I-can’t-watch, please-God-let-them-win last seconds, it remains a blur. So thank goodness we have it documented.

 

Two Hall Of Famers? No Problem

Here’s what the record shows:

Devils defenseman Slava Fetisov fired a pass intended for a teammate rushing forward, but the puck deflected off the Rangers’ Esa Tikkanen, sending everything in reverse. The puck careened back to the right of Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, catching just about everyone on the ice flatfooted. Matteau had just climbed over the boards, and he alone was moving toward the play and had the clearest view.

Just 24 years old, he had two obstacles — Scott Niedermayer and Brodeur, both future Hall of Famers.

Matteau swooped in to grab the puck and somehow, with a late-reacting Niedermayer trying to slow him with his stick, moved behind and to the other side of the net. His shot — not much more than a trickle — found a sliver of space between Brodeur and the left post.

On the radio, Howie Rose took over: “Matteau! Matteau! Matteau! Stéphane Matteau! And the Rangers have one more hill to climb baby.” And so a legend was born.

“Here’s the truth of it,” Matteau said the other day. “I had my blinders on, I didn’t have a clue. These were two great players, and I wasn’t good enough to put the puck where I wanted. Did I see a space between Brodeur and the post? Maybe. Maybe not. I saw the puck go in, and the rest is just numb.”

The Rangers climb that one last hill and embrace the Stanley Cup on June 14, 1994. (Photo: Bruce Bennett Studios/New York Rangers)

 


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