Canucks stun Rangers in overtime STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

NEW YORK — NEW YORK -- Vancouver goalie Kirk McLean was unbelievable when he had to be last night, and the Canucks walked out of Madison Square Garden with a 3-2 overtime victory against the New York Rangers in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup finals series.

It took a little luck. It took Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch hitting the crossbar behind McLean and having the puck bounce out for an odd-man breakaway with 34 seconds left in the first overtime period.


And it took a heart-stopping goal by Greg Adams -- that just cleared under the crossbar -- to give Vancouver the win and the Rangers a lot to think about before Game 2 of this best-of-seven series here tomorrow at 8 p.m.

McLean had 17 saves in the extra session and 52 for the game, as he repeatedly repelled Rangers such as Mark Messier, Adam Graves, Alexei Kovalev and Steve Larmer.


"You like to get in the game by making some saves," McLean said. "But [not] necessarily on point-blank shots."

New York Rangers coach Mike Keenan said: "Vancouver walked out with a win because of their goaltender. We've got to regroup and find a way to beat him. Someone on our bench said McLean was so focused out there, the puck probably looked as big as a beach ball."

And yet it took two one-goal rallies, with the last one coming with one minute left in regulation, to give Vancouver its chance at victory.

The Rangers scored the only goal of the first two periods, when a shot by Larmer off a Kovalev rebound hit the post and ricocheted off McLean's leg, just 3:32 into the first period.

The third period, however, was quite different for both teams, though disastrous for the Rangers, who are now hearing criticism for blowing leads.

New York and its fans were momentarily stunned when their 1-0 lead evaporated on a goal by Bret Hedican 5:45 into the third.

Hedican had scored one goal in his NHL career and gone 144 regular-season and playoff games since scoring that one on April 14, 1992, at the end of his rookie season.

McLean kept the Canucks in the game at the start of the third period, when he made brilliant back-to-back saves on a breakaway by Messier and a follow-up on the rebound by Graves.


But there was nothing he could do when at 8:29, Leetch suckered everyone to him, faked the shot and then passed to a streaking Kovalev for a flying slap shot that left the Rangers leading 2-1.

The Rangers appeared headed to victory in regulation, when with one minute left, Vancouver's Pavel Bure fed Cliff Ronning who was able to punch the puck toward the goal, and Martin Gelinas, who already has a game-winning goal in the postseason, was able to direct the puck through Richter's legs to force overtime.

Early in the game, it appeared that Vancouver had spent its week off watching the NBA playoff teams exchange elbows, because last night, the Canucks spent much of the first period sending a physical message.

It didn't matter to the Canucks that the Rangers took a 1-0 lead. They put their sticks in the Rangers' ribs. They threw a few hooks, took a few bodies and sent a few Rangers tumbling with hard checks along the boards.

The Canucks increased their hitting in the second.

NOTES: McLean's 52 saves were the most in a finals game since 1971, when Montreal's Ken Dryden did it against Chicago. . . . The Canucks are 6-1 in overtime during these playoffs. Montreal holds the record with 10 overtime wins last year. . . . Since the NHL established the best-of-seven format in 1939, the team winning Game 1 of the finals has gone on to win the series 44 of 55 times.


Vancouver .. 0 0 2 1 -- 3

Rangers 1 0 1 0 -- 2



(Canucks lead series, 1-0)

Yesterday: Canucks 3, Rangers 2, OT


Tomorrow: at N.Y. Rangers, 8:08 p.m.

Saturday: at Vancouver, 8:08 p.m.

Tuesday: at Vancouver, 9:08 p.m.

June 9: at N.Y. Rangers, 8:08 p.m.*

June 11: at Vancouver, 8:08 p.m.*

June 14: at N.Y. Rangers, 8:08 p.m.*


*-if necessary