Canucks like their position

The difference between the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Rangers on the scoreboard is just one game.

Thursday night, the Rangers had the opportunity to put 54 years of frustration to rest. With a victory, they would have clutched and kissed the Stanley Cup, lofted it above their heads and circled the Madison Square Garden ice before a madhouse of rollicking fans, who could barely wait to unload the pent-up love and adulation for the men who would end the Cup curse.


But the Rangers didn't win, and the only time anyone saw anything being clutched was when New York coach Mike Keenan raised his hands and clutched his throat in the third period of the 6-3 loss to the Canucks.

The loss brings this best-of-seven Stanley Cup championship series to Game 6 tonight in Vancouver. Game 7, if necessary, will be back in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.


The Rangers have said from the beginning of these playoffs that only they control their future and that their talent will prevail.

But today, the Rangers cannot deny the impact of the tenacious Canucks, who may yet have something to say about the Rangers' future.

"The feeling we have is very calm," said Vancouver defenseman Dave Babych, who scored the game-winner Thursday. "We see very clearly what we have to do, and we're very confident that we can do it because we've done it before."

The Canucks became one of 12 teams in NHL history to win a series after being down 3-1, when they ousted the Calgary Flames in three overtime games in the Western Conference quarterfinals.

If they can do it again, they will be the second team to achieve such a thing in the Stanley Cup finals, joining the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who won after falling behind the Detroit Red Wings, 3-0.

"We were relaxed in Game 5," said Babych. "We played very comfortable hockey. We took their best

shots, and when there was pressure on us in the third period, we came back with control and poise.

"For us, it's the same feeling we had against Calgary. For New York, they have that jinx or curse and a lot of expectations that create even more pressure. Maybe the curse doesn't matter. We know they know how to win, and we know in Game 6 they're going to come out and try to put all the guns to us, but there is certainly pressure."


The pressure was intensified when Vancouver coach Pat Quinn changed his lines. The Canucks' most feared combo in the postseason had been Pavel Bure, Trevor Linden and Greg Adams. But that line was dormant most of the first four games of this series.

So, Thursday, Quinn put Murray Craven at center between Bure andAdams, and moved Linden to a line with Geoff Courtnall and Nathan Lafayette.

Bure and Courtnall each scored twice. Lafayette had two assists, and the Canucks produced a five-goal third period that stood up to a furious New York rally.

"Game 5 was odd," said Rangers goalie Mike Richter. "I think we have to realize, to understand, what it is going to be like in this situation. I think we'll be a little more accustomed to it in Game 6.

"It's funny -- you can't win the Stanley Cup in the first game of the playoffs, and you can't expect to win it by walking out on the ice for the first few shifts. You have to play every minute of the game and win every minute of the game, and we didn't do that in Game 5."



NEW YORK RANGERS vs. VANCOUVER CANUCKS (Rangers lead series, 3-2) Results Gm. 1: Canucks 3, Rangers 2, OT

Gm. 2: Rangers 3, Canucks 1

Gm. 3: Rangers 5, Canucks 1

Gm. 4: Rangers 4, Canucks 2

Gm. 5: Canucks 6, Rangers 3

Schedule Date .. .. Site .. .. .. Time


Tonight .. at Vancouver .8:08

Tuesday* New York . 8:08

*-If necessary

TV: All games on ESPN