NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers could look up into the stands at Madison Square Garden last night and read the sign:
"The Cup is in the House."
But today the Cup is on its way to Vancouver, where Game 6 will be played tomorrow night, after the Canucks, leading 1-0, scored five third-period goals and whipped the Rangers, 6-3.
"The party is delayed," the Canucks' Murray Craven said. "And hopefully it will be delayed until next year."
Or at least until Tuesday, when the series would come back to the Garden for Game 7, if necessary.
The Canucks, who rallied from a three-games-to-one deficit against the Calgary Flames to win their Western Conference quarterfinal series, found an offense last night, when many people least expected it.
"We've been pretty resilient in the playoffs," said Vancouver coach Pat Quinn. "Not much is known about our club here in the East. But we knew we had heart. We knew our team would battle and battle we did."
The resilience came in waves.
Defenseman Dave Babych scored the game-winner, but Vancouver avoided at least three blows to its heart before Babych came through.
The first came in the opening period, when an apparent goal by the Rangers' Esa Tikkanen was waved off because linesman Randy Mitton ruled that Stephane Matteau went offside. Replays showed otherwise.
New York's 6-foot-5, 225-pound defenseman Jeff Beukeboom was given a game misconduct for instigating a fight right after the offside call. With Beukeboom out, Vancouver began to dominate physically.
In the second period, Jeff Brown gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead with 8:10 gone.
Then came the second blow. The Canucks' Geoff Courtnall was given a five-minute major for elbowing Sergei Zubov, putting the Rangers on the extended power play. The Canucks killed it, limiting New York to three shots in the five minutes.
Vancouver broke fast in the third period, taking a 3-0 lead on goals by Courtnall and Pavel Bure in the first 2:48, but the Rangers weren't done. New York stunned the Canucks with goals by Doug Lidster, Steve Larmer and Mark Messier in the next 5:35 to tie it.
Those five goals, combined with three more by Babych, Courtnall and Bure, set an NHL playoff record for goals in the third period.
"It was pretty nerve-racking on the bench when they tied it," said Vancouver's Cliff Ronning, who had two assists, including a beautiful behind-the-back pass to Brown for the first goal. "It took Dave's goal to settle us down."
Babych's goal came 59 seconds after Messier tied things up and Courtnall and Bure later scored 44 seconds apart to send the series back to Vancouver.
"This was a tough loss for us to take," said Rangers coach Mike Keenan. "We're known for our discipline and tonight we weren't disciplined. We weren't prepared to win and Vancouver was.
"The only thing I know is that you have to win four to win the series. Tonight, we were overzealous. We were trying to throw the knockout punch and while we were trying, we got TKO'd."
Vancouver also knows it takes four wins to win the series. It was quite a performance by a team that didn't seem concerned with being down three games to one.
"But we're human," said Quinn. "My guys saw the papers here, the presumptuous headlines that the Cup was all but won.
"It could have gone either way. [The players] could have gotten ** too emotional over proving themselves or read it and believed it. The Rangers' fans were wired. They could feel it, but our club battled."
L The celebration talk inspired Canucks captain Trevor Linden.
"The party doesn't start until we have our say," Linden said. "All the talk about the party and the parade that was going to go on, that was enough. It was what we needed. It really brought our team closer together."
Despite the 3-1 edge they held, the Rangers knew they were going to have to earn the chance to end 54 years of Cup frustration.
"From experience, this is the toughest game to win," said Messier. "We battled back to make it 3-3, which is tough enough. Then they scored again, and again and again. It's a tough loss, but we learned a lot.
"We're not giving an inch. We're going to go in there and give it our best shot."