For a few, fleeting moments, it was 1994 all over again.
When Martin Brodeur gave up a brutal goal to Marian Gaborik 17 seconds into the third period that allowed the Rangers to complete a stunning comeback from a 3-0 deficit, the miracle was happening anew.
But really, it was just a mirage. Even after scoring the tying goal, the Rangers didn't generate that many great scoring chances. They only had eight shots in the third period and 28 for the game, which wasn't good enough.
They can only play in spurts now because of all the games and all the minutes logged. From the eight-minute mark on, you knew the Rangers were in deep trouble. They were hanging on, once again spending too much time in their own zone because they were dog tired.
Devils 5, Rangers 3, miracle whipped.
Sure, it was shocking to see Henrik Lundqvist allow three goals on the first five shots he faced. But if you are a Rangers fan and you blame him for the loss, you should have your credentials as a fan revoked.
The King carried the Rangers to the conference finals on his shoulder. You would like to think that his teammates would carry him just once, but they can't because this is the most offensively challenged team to reach the conference finals in the expansion era.
John Tortorella deserves a metal for getting his team this far. When he won in Tampa Bay in 2004, he had Martin St. Louis and Vinny LeCavalier.
Rangers' fans will pin their hopes on the fact that the Rangers won game six in Ottawa in the first round, Beating the Devils will be more difficult. They have more speed than the Senators and fresh legs.
The Rangers have had a good run. Reaching the conference finals represents progress. It certainly exceeds the preseason expectations, so we'll be happy about that.
For the first time in years, the foundation for success seems to be in place - despite the offensive problems. In many ways, the Rangers are a year ahead of schedule, so we'll feel good about that as well.
Still, I take the defeats as personally now as I did when I was 17. I allow the Rangers to affect my moods. After tough losses, I tend to not be able to sleep. I play the games back over in my mind a thousand different times.
These are the times when I miss my mom, who passed away in 2004, so dearly. I think she was the only one who really did understand.
When the Rangers won the Cup in 1994, we embraced. Then we went outside. I poured champagne over her head and my head, then I drank champagne from my miniature Stanley Cup purchased at the Garden earlier that day.
Rangers' fans get accused of living in the past too much. We're told that we need to move on from 1994. We can't because we know we're never going to see another Cup. We are the latter day Brooklyn Dodgers, destined to win only once in our lifetimes. Ask a Brooklyn Dodgers fan in his seventies how much 1955 still means.
A Devils fan I know says a New Jersey victory in this series means we will never have to talk about 1994 again.
He points out that the only thing the Devils haven't done during their 15-year run is reach the Finals at the Rangers' expense. If they do, it'll be five Finals appearances for the Devils since the Rangers' last victory.
There really is no comparison between the franchises but I told him that nothing will chance 1994, even if the Devils go on to win 10 Cups. That was our moment and it will always be our moment, our forever moment.
In 1986 while working at the Connecticut Post, I was assigned to cover the Rangers in the playoffs. My boss figured the Rangers would be three and down. Instead, they shocked the hockey world by reaching the conference finals, upsetting the Flyers and Capitals.
This was my baptism to playoff hockey at the Garden. The cheering would start 15, 20 minutes before faceoff and never really stop. There was a constant din in the building for three hours and it was exillerating.
I knew then that I would be a fan of this team until the day I died. I also knew that I would rather attend a big playoff at the Garden than a big playoff game at Yankee Stadium.
That's the difference. I like the Yankees, but I love the Rangers. That's really what it is - a love affair.
Even after all these years, I remain madly in love with a hockey team, even though it has broken our hearts so many times.
I still get really, really emotional, but you know what they say: it only hurts because we care so much.
I really don't expect them to win on Friday, but I'll be watching, yelling at the TV, cursing when they don't generate enough scoring chances.
And when elimination comes, we'll just look forward to September because you know, nothing really ever changes.
That really ought to be the Rangers' theme song -- See You In September, when the timeless ritual starts again.