"We're going to go in and win Game 6. That was the focus this morning and it's the way we feel right now. We've done that all year, we've won all the games we've had to win. … I know we're going to go in and win Game 6 and bring it back here (to the Garden) for Game 7 ... We have enough talent and experience to turn the tide. That's exactly what we're going to do in Game 6."
That was Mark Messier on May 24, 1994, making the statement before Game 6 at the Meadowlands between the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers. He then scored a hat trick to force Game 7, where the Rangers eliminated the Devils in double overtime.
With the Devils again leading the conference final against the rivals heading into Game 6 in Jersey, the inevitable parallels between the two series were bound to come up — even if Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards and coach John Tortorella refused to take the bait on any 1994 questions on Thursday.
There would be no more painful way for the Devils to exit the playoffs than to have history repeat: Having the chance to eliminate the Rangers on home ice in Game 6 — on the anniversary of Messier Day, no less — blowing it, and then falling short of the Cup Final with a loss at MSG.
Which is probably why none of the Devils that discussed the events of 18 years ago were really interested in focusing on the past.
New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer, when asked if this run for Martin Brodeur was redemption for 1994:
"I don't even think about '94. In '94 I still had hair. It was that long ago. That plays no part in what we're doing."
Brodeur had this exchange about 1994 on a conference call on Thursday:
Q. What are you feeling about tomorrow as in regards to '94?
MARTIN BRODEUR: Nothing.
MARTIN BRODEUR: Yeah, I think the question was asked yesterday to me. I don't see anything that is similar. I know if you guys look at it, it looks the same. But it's different teams and a different way of playing the game. That's 18 years ago. That's a long time. I know I'm feeling a lot different. I'm feeling a lot more appreciative of what's going on.
Before, the Rangers were a good team when they beat us. We were not supposed to compete with them at all in '94. They made these trades and they had all these big guys at the end, and they pulled it off in a dramatic way.
But this time around, we feel we can play with them. It makes me feel a lot more comfortable going into these games coming up.
More 1994 talk from ESPN's Scott Burnside, who mentions that Chris Kreider had just turned 3 when Messier made his guarantee.
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