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Once again, the New York Rangers outshot, outplayed and outhustled the Vancouver Canucks. This time they even managed to win.

"We've had a couple of unfortunate breaks in the last little while, but that has not hindered our confidence at all," Rangers center Mark Messier said after Thursday night's 3-1 victory tied the Stanley Cup finals at a game apiece.During the regular season, the Rangers were a team that couldn't be beaten once they took a lead into the third period. Their record in such contests was 40-0-4.

But in the playoffs, they have lost twice after taking leads into the third period, most recently Tuesday night's 3-2 overtime loss to the Canucks in Game 1.

On three occasions in eight previous games, the Rangers allowed opponents to tie in the last minute of regulation and force overtime.

"We've played unbelievably all year with a lead, we've held it, and that didn't enter our minds at all," Messier said when asked if the Rangers were thinking about blowing a one-goal lead Thursday night.

Certainly coach Mike Keenan wasn't worried.

"You have to show confidence in your leadership and confidence in your players," Keenan said. "For that reason, I put the same group of people on the ice" who gave up the tying goal to Vancouver in Game 1.

"Ultimately, they got the job done. That's all that matters to us. Mistakes are made from time to time. But you have to give them a chance to respond and that's what they did for us."

Tuesday night, the Rangers were leading 2-1 when Martin Gelinas scored with one minute left in the third period. Rangers goaltender Mike Richter blamed himself for giving up a "soft" goal.

On the ice for the Rangers at the time were Mark Messier, Adam Graves, Alexei Kovalev, Brian Leetch and Jeff Beukeboom.

Thursday night, it was Messier, Graves, Leetch, Beukeboom and Steve Larmer on the ice for the last minute.

Leetch was thinking back to Game 1, especially after one particular play.

"Gelinas had a whack at the doorstep and you can't believe that it could happen again," Leetch said. "And then the puck goes into the corner and it's a relief."

What happened then was even more of a relief for the Rangers. Leetch managed to control the puck behind the New York goal line and send it all the way up ice into an empty net for the final margin of victory.

"We had lots of chances in the last five minutes, at least three good chances," said Vancouver's Greg Adams, who scored the winner in the first game.

This time, Richter admittedly played a better game. He made 28 saves, including a couple of big ones in the last minute.

He was also lucky. The Canucks hit the crossbar on three occasions - Pavel Bure in the first period, Cliff Ronning in the second and Adams in the third.

"It was frustrating," said Bure, who had his point-scoring streak snapped at 16 games, two shy of Bryan Trottier's record set in 1981."It was also a good sign, because if those go in we're up 2-0."

The Rangers continued to outshoot the Canucks by a wide margin. It was 54-31 in Game 1 and 40-29 in Game 2.

And Game 2 was almost a replica of Game 1 with the Rangers coming out strong against Vancouver goaltender Kirk McLean.

Doug Lidster, a little-used defenseman during the regular season who was acquired from Vancouver, gave the Rangers the early lead when he scored from close range at 6:22 of the first.

Sergio Momesso tied it for Vancouver at 14:04 when he tapped in a shot from the right circle by Cliff Ronning after Richter stopped Ronning's shot but failed to cover the puck.

Glenn Anderson broke the tie with a shorthanded goal at 11:42 of the second, but it was a great individual effort by Messier that set it up. The Rangers' captain stole a Vancouver pass and went in on a breakaway against McLean.