The New York Rangers are just 60 minutes away from a prize that has eluded them for 53 years.
"Sixty minutes of hockey is still left, and hopefully we can do it," forward Esa Tikkanen said after the Rangers moved within one game of winning the long-cherished Stanley Cup with a 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night. The win gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series."We have to take it one game at a time now," Tikkanen said. "We can't think about what is going to happen after that. We have to think about right now, and that is Game 5. We can't think about anything else."
The Rangers have never been more focused following their stirring victory in Game 4 that thrust them to the brink of their first Cup since 1940.
"You just go out and play," forward Adam Graves said. "Obviously, we're very, very proud to be from New York but I don't think you concern yourself with anything other than the drop of the puck and playing the game.
"You can't look beyond that, you just go out and play hard. All we're looking to do is get ready for the drop of the puck on Thursday night and go."
They'll try to do that in Game 5 at New York's Madison Square Garden, where a boisterous, Cup-hungry crowd is expected.
"They were pretty electrified in the (New) Jersey series and in the first two games at home in this series," Rangers coach Mike Keenan said. "The fan support is bordering on an element of being fanantical.
"They're certainly going to be in a state of frenzy and we're going to have to control all of those emotions in terms of playing well with discipline and playing our system in the next game."
If the Rangers play as well as they did in Game 4, they'll be all right. Down 2-0 after one period, they came back with four straight goals in a rally sparked by the goaltending of Mike Richter and the goal-making of Brian Leetch.
Leetch had a hand in four goals and Richter made 28 saves, including a momentum-sparking stop on Pavel Bure's penalty shot in the second period. The Rangers trailed 2-1 at the time and Richter's stop prevented them from falling behind by two goals again.
"It would have been tough coming back from two goals a second time," Rangers captain Mark Messier said.
In Game 3, Richter had given up a breakaway goal to Bure, who had an NHL -leading 60 goals during the regular season and leads the playoffs with 14.
This time, he tried not to make the same mistake after Bure was awarded the penalty shot at 6:31 of the second period when he was pulled down from behind on a breakaway by Leetch.
"I wanted to come out as quick as I could and take most of his options away," Richter said of Bure. "I knew he would come in with speed.
"He's a fast-fast player and he can change pretty quick. I did the same thing on his breakaway goal the other night when he found an opening, but this time he didn't."
Bure admitted he was baffled.
"He came out of the net and that's why I couldn't shoot," Bure said. "After, he backed up right away and didn't give me any room. I tried to deke him, but there was no room."
Richter, who had given up two goals in the first period, was now in charge. He made 28 saves overall.