Exclusive: 1994 OT hero Stephane Matteau on what the Rangers are feeling heading into Game 7
When it comes to performing at your best in high pressure situations, New York Rangers legendary OT hero Stephane Matteau knows a thing or two about it.
In the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, he scored not one but two double overtime goals to lift the Rangers over the New Jersey Devils. That also included the Game 7 winner that sent them to the Stanley Cup Finals where they beat the Vancouver Canucks in 7 games to end a 54 year championship drought.
As the Blueshirts get set to play the Devils at the Prudential Center in a Game 7, we spoke with Matteau to get a sense of what the players are going through today.
“What the Rangers are experiencing today is a lot of fear because if you lose this game tonight you’re out,” Matteau explained. “If you play a great and win, that opens to the next round and you can still dream about the Stanley Cup.”
Athletes are creatures of habit that don’t like to stray from their daily routines. According to Matteau, you can throw that out the window.
“Usually you go through your routine and you practice, eat, and go to sleep,” he noted. “You don’t sleep the same way before a Game 7, I can tell you that much.”
Stephane Matteau: OT Hero!
The Rangers paid a heavy price to win the Stanley Cup in 1994.
On deadline day, GM Neil Smith took a first place lineup and turned it on its head with multiple moves that saw fan-favorite Mike Gartner jettisoned for Glenn Anderson. He also added aging veteran Craig MacTavish as a shutdown center.
In the end, the biggest move turned out to be trading rising young star Tony Amonte to the Chicago Blackhawks for Matteau and Brian Noonan. After the deal, Matteau picked up 4 goals and 7 points in 12 regular-season matches. The deal really paid off in the playoffs when he added 6 goals and 9 points in 23 games.
Matteau is considered the best trade deadline move in Rangers history for one big reason, he scored the double-overtime goal in Game 7 against the Devils in the Eastern Conference Final to help end a 54 year curse.
“I’ve always said since day one, of all the trades I’ve made that was the worst one,” Neil Smith told Forever Blueshirts. “But without Noonan and Matteau you don’t win the Cup.”
Looking back, that 7-game set against the Devils is widely considered one of the greatest series ever played in NHL history.
Former Ranger Bernie Nicholls, who was a member of that Devils squad called it the greatest series he’s ever played in. Although he writes in his book he wished it ended on a nicer goal but when he sees Matteau at Rangers alumni events he’s very happy for him.
Of course, Matteau sees it differently and has a great story behind his Game 7 epic tally.
“In New Jersey I scored my first double overtime goal and while I was going on the ice Eddie Olczyk kissed my stick,” Matteau recalled. “Game 7 was the same thing, as I didn’t plan to be late to the ice but I broke a lace. He was in the room and I asked him to please touch my stick. I joked that I’ll be back in five minutes. Well I lied to him because I was back in four.”
As for who Matteau thinks could be the hero for the Rangers tonight, it’ll might be Patrick Kane or Artemi Panarin.
“Either one, I would be so happy. I just hope it doesn’t get that far!”
For more clips from our interview with Bernie Nicholls subscribe to our YouTube Channel here.
You can buy Bernie Nicholls new book From Flood Lights to Bright Lights by Triumph Books at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and other book stores.