Back then he wasn't yet the greatest goaltender of all time, he wasn't the holder of statistical records nor had he spent three separate days with the Stanley Cup as his personal play toy.

Back then, in the spring of 1994, he was hardly even a starter.

"Nobody knew my name," Martin Brodeur said yesterday, thinking back 18 years to another Eastern Conference final with the Rangers, one that has sharply come back into focus. "You know, it's different, but that was pretty amazing how loud they got chanting my name."

They are the Rangers fans at the Garden, who serenaded Brodeur all during Wednesday night's 5-3 Devils' win in Game 5 of this year's version of the Eastern Conference finals. It's a Battle of the Hudson that echoes the past and again has the Devils on the brink of eliminating their Manhattan counterparts, up 3-2 in the best-of-seven series going into tonight's Game 6 at the Prudential Center.