As the Rangers face the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Final, it marks their second postseason clash. Their first encounter occurred in 1997, in the first round, where the Rangers lost the opening game but rebounded to win four straight, eliminating the Panthers in five games. That memorable series featured Wayne Gretzky‘s hat trick in game four and two overtime winners by the same player.

Esa Tikkanen, known for his eccentric personality and his unique “Tikkanese” language that baffled everyone, was not only a colorful character but also an exceptional hockey player with a lethal shot. Former Ranger and Panther goalie John Vanbiesbrouck would experience the power of Tikkanen’s shot in the most unfortunate way.

With the series tied at one, game three went into overtime. Tikkanen, coming down the wing, unleashed his signature slap shot from 40 feet to the left of Vanbiesbrouck, striking the video camera inside the net. After a brief delay of about two minutes, referee Dan Marouelli, upon consulting with video-replay judge John Damante, confirmed it as a goal. The Rangers secured a 4-3 victory after 16 minutes and 29 seconds of overtime.

Tikkanen was the only one who immediately knew it was a goal, recognizing the distinctive sound of the puck hitting the camera rather than the crossbar.

The decisive goal came next, sealing the series and pushing the Rangers past the defending Eastern Conference champions.

Mark Messier set up the overtime winner with a precise centering pass to Esa Tikkanen. Tikkanen maneuvered to the point, evaded defenseman Terry Carkner, and fired the shot past John Vanbiesbrouck. Having already scored the overtime game-winner in Game 3, Tikkanen once again clinched the victory with a goal at 12 minutes and 8 seconds into overtime in Miami.

“I have two lucky overtime winners,” Tikkanen said. “Hopefully they don’t stop there. I’m doing everything I can to win the Stanley Cup for the New York Rangers.”

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