15 years ago today: Devils defeat Rangers 4-1, Rangers on the brink

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After defeating the Rangers 4-1 in Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, the Devils were poised to add their names to the "Curse of 1940" lore, and there wasn't a Ranger fan alive at this point who didn't believe the curse was real.

The Devils dominated the Rangers in front of their home fans, and were headed home for Game 6 with a chance to advance to the first Stanley Cup Finals in franchise history.

The Devils had not beaten the Rangers once during the regular season, but had now won three of five, and two in a row to take a 3-2 lead in the series, and leave the Rangers are the brink of disaster.

"If we can play the way we've played the last two games, we'll have a great opportunity," said Devils center Bernie Nicholls, a former Ranger. "The boys are going to be fired up and I'm looking forward to that. Hopefully, we'll use our nervousness to our advantage and play the way we've been playing all along."

Martin Brodeur was again spectacular, keeping the Rangers scoreless until Esa Tikkannen scored a meaningless goal with less than 4 minutes remaining in the game, but the Rangers were long cooked at that point.

After Game 4, Rangers Coach Mike Keenan said five of his regulars - Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Craig MacTavish, Brian Noonan and Adam Graves - were ailing. But all were in the lineup. Leetch, who apparently has a sore shoulder, threw a check on the first shift, but never had a shot on goal, not good considering he was the Rangers' top playoff scorer. Messier, was said to have sore ribs, was not as physical as in the first few games and did nothing offensively. He had at least one point in all 13 of the Rangers' playoff games before Game 5.

Rangers defenseman Jeff Beukeboom knocked Stephane Richer into the boards as he was trying to stand up. Referee Don Koharski had a clear view and called nothing, but Beuk would be suspended for Game 6.

The Rangers were banged up, demoralized, frustrated, and would be playing Game 6 without one of their best defensemen. "The Curse" needed to be lifted, and fast.

Just like in Game 2, a message needed to be sent, and the Captain was going to deliver it.

 

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