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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rangers Take Cup, End Long Drought

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have ended 54 years of frustration and laid to rest the Stanley Cup curse that had haunted the franchise since 1940. In Game 7 of the championship series on Tuesday night, the Rangers regained the dominance they had demonstrated throughout the regular season and beat the Vancouver Canucks, 3-2. The victory gave the franchise and its long-suffering fans what they had dreamed of all those years: the Stanley Cup. The Rangers hoisted the huge trophy over their heads. The fans -- dancing in the aisles from the moment Brian Leetch scored the first goal in the first period -- could not contain their smiles or their tears. The Canucks, underdogs from the beginning, gave it everything they had, but on this night, at Madison Square Garden, nothing could stop New York. Leetch, Adam Graves and Mark Messier, New York's three biggest stars who had been underachievers in the series, stepped up and pushed the Rangers to a 3-1 lead, and then goalie Mike Richter, who tried to hold on game after game while waiting for them to show up, made sure of it in the end. The only Canuck to find the net was team captain Trevor Linden, who scored once in the second period and again with 4:50 gone in the third to cause some nervous moments for the Rangers and their fans. The game started so close, so tight. Legs digging for every modicum of energy. Hearts pounding, on the ice and in the stands. Teeth clenched. Forechecks at the ready. Every man on both sides searching for an opening, grinding out inches. Then New York defenseman Sergei Zubov got the puck to Messier. Vancouver goalie Kirk McLean blocked it, but the rebound bounced out to his right, and before he could turn, Leetch swatted it in the back door for a 1-0 Rangers lead with 8:58 left in the opening period. Leetch's goal ended a two-game scoring drought. For the sellout crowd of 18,200 at Madison Square Garden it was -- they hoped -- the beginning of a wild celebration. The game got more physical. Body checks were seen and heard, Plexiglas shook, and the Rangers and Canucks paired off for hand-to-hand combat behind the Vancouver net. The officials seemed disinclined to call much of anything, but at 5:57, the whistle blew. Canucks defenseman Jyrki Lumme was called for cross-checking, putting the Rangers on the power play. Forty-two seconds later, Graves, the Rangers leading scorer in the regular season who had been shut out in the championship series, and the man who had said he would go crazy if he worried about anything other than giving this game everything he had, created just a little ecstasy when he beat McLean. The Rangers were up 2-0, and the game was 14:45 old. Vancouver had two terrific chances even in the period. With six minutes gone, the Canucks could have scored first, when Shawn Antoski and Tim Hunter carried the puck into the crease, only to be stopped by Richter. With 2:23 to play, Pavel Bure skated circles around the Rangers net, only to leave the puck on the doorstep, a situation that drove him to pound the boards in frustration when he returned to the bench. Vancouver, however, closed in in the second period on a short-handed goal by Linden with 14:39 to play. But at 13:29, Messier ended a mad scramble in front of the Vancouver net by poking the puck through McLean's legs for New York's second power-play goal of the night and a 3-1 lead. And then, when Vancouver mounted a big charge shortly after Messier scored, Richter came up with two huge back-to-back saves on Sergio Momesso and the follow-up by Cliff Ronning. The Rangers had only one really worrisome moment in the second period, when Vancouver center Murray Craven threw his body into Ranger Jeff Beukeboom's knees along the boards, forcing the New York defenseman to the locker room. Beukeboom returned to the bench later in the period.