15 years ago today: Devils 3 Rangers 1, Series tied, everyone is benched
With C Bernie Nicholls suspended for Game 4 due to a cross check on Alexei Kovalev in Game 3, and C Bobby Carpenter nursing an injury, the Devils were weak at the center position coming into Game 4 at the Brendan Byrne Arena.
The Rangers were flying high a big 3-2 win in Game 3 thanks to Stephane Matteau's first bit of double overtime heroics, and had every reason to think they were on the verge of taking command of the series, with a potential Series ending Game 5 at Madison Square Garden.
A couple of hours and some strange benchings later, everything had changed.
The Devils dominated this game from almost beginning to end, with Stephane Richer getting a power play goal midway thru the first period. Bill Guerin added a breakaway goal a few minutes later, and Rangers coach Mike Keenan had a meltdown, pulling Mike Richter and sending in Glenn Healy to hopefully jump start the team. When that didn't work, the Rangers found out "Iron Mike" was just getting warmed up.
Brian Leetch was benched early in the 2nd period. Mark Messier, Kevin Lowe, Sergei Zubov, and Brian Noonan also sat for extended periods of time. Joey Kocur saw more ice time in this game than he probably had the entire playoffs, as Keenan kept sending him out there to inject some energy into the lifeless Rangers.
Keenan would blame the benchings on the players having suffered "undisclosed injuries", although neither Messier nor Leetch would admit to being hurt.
When Matteau scored his 2nd goal in two games, the Rangers, for all their flaws in this game, were only down 2-1 and things didn't look so bad.
Healy and Brodeur were both outstanding in this game, each of them had to make spectacular saves to keep the score from changing., but Valeri Zelepukin was able to put the Rangers away for good in this game with a late third period goal, and give the Devils a 3-1 victory, and we had a brand new series.
It was now a best of three, headed back to Madison Square Garden.