Bundle up; we’re about to take a trip down memory lane!
The New York Rangers are set to take on the Buffalo Sabres today at Citi Field for the NHL’s 10th annual Winter Classic (1:00 PM, NBC). Ring in the New Year, and the outdoor joy, below, as we count down the top five outdoor moments in Rangers history….
5) Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot
The Rangers played outdoor hockey before it was cool….literally!
The Blueshirts partook in the first unofficial outdoor game in league history, as they squared off with the Los Angeles Kings outside Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas for a preseason showcase in 1991. Contrary to the normally frigid outdoor games we see today (a high of 18 degrees Fahrenheit is expected for Monday in Queens), the puck drop temperature was 85 degrees, expanding to as high as 95 during the game. While the ice held up well in the sweltering Nevada temperatures, some Vegas critters, namely grasshoppers and flies, hit the ice in the late stages.
Though the Rangers lost 5-2, unable to overcome third period goals by Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri, they did provide the first unofficial outdoor goals in NHL history, as Tony Amonte and Doug Weight each put in first period scores.
4) 7th Goal Stretch
Yankee Stadium is used to its interleague rivalry every summer between the Yankees and Mets, but an interstate rivalry came to The Bronx in January 2014, as the Rangers opened up a pair of outdoor contests in the 2014 Stadium Series, the first leg coming against the New Jersey Devils. In the first inning …or period… the Rangers fell behind 3-1, with Patrik Elias putting in two goals. Marc Staal cut the lead in half before the first let out, before the second period featured solo blasts by Mats Zuccarello to put the Rangers ahead for good. Two more blue scores, tallied by Carl Hagelin and Rick Nash, chased Martin Brodeur from net. Replaced by Cory Schneider, Brodeur could only watch (and later complain about the ice conditions) as Derek Stepan scored on a penalty shot to complete the Rangers’ 7-3 win.
3) Bronx (Car) Bomber
Dan Carcillo will never be remembered as a goal scorer, and even fewer will remember him as a Ranger. Known mostly for his enforcer duties, Carcillo spent 39 games with the Rangers, tallying just five goals. Two of those scores, however, would become a pair of the most memorable moments of the Rangers’ pulse-pounding 2013-14 season.
Three days after the win over the Devils, and three months before Carcillo went from the penalty box to the playoff scoresheet in Philadelphia, the Rangers took on the New York Islanders in The Bronx. Once again, come-from-behind heroics were involved, as a second period goal by Brock Nelson proved a 1-0 Islanders that last just 40 seconds, with Benoit Pouliot tying it up in the middle frame’s final minute. Off a primary assist from Dominic Moore, who tallied three points at Yankee Stadium, Carcillo got it past Evgeni Nabokov to put the Rangers up 2-1, scoring off a rebounded Moore shot. Henrik Lundqvist did the rest, as number 30 stopped 30 shots to help sweep the Stadium Series.
2) We Salute You
As a certain Yankee once said, it’s deja vu all over again, as our runner up spot features another enforcer who scored at the perfect times.
Over a 610-game NHL career, Mike Rupp came just short of tallying 100 points. Devils fans, however, remember him for tallying the game winning goal in their Game 7 win over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the 2003 Stanley Cup Final victory. Rangers fans remember him for two particular scores.
Entering the 2012 Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park, where the visitng Rangers took on the Philadelphia Flyers, Rupp had a mere single goal. It was he, however, that erased the Rangers’ 2-0 deficit, putting one in 30 seconds after the Flyers’ second score and opening the third with the equalizer. After the first tally, Rupp removed his glove and emulated the salute celebration of Jaromir Jagr, who was playing for the Flyers at the time. 150 seconds later after the second score, Brad Richards put one in to create the Rangers’ final 3-2 margin.
That 3-2 victory was achieved with a big save by a New Yorker, but Mariano Rivera was nowhere in sight.
Lundqvist had to keep the Rangers afloat in the early going, stopping 24 shots in the first 40 minutes. Though the Rangers played the third with tremendous energy, a late Philadelphia rush created a large pile up around Lundqvist. Clinging to their lead, the Rangers were willing to do literally anything to keep it a 3-2 game…including commit a penalty. While Ranges head coach John Tortorella angrily protested the call in a tirade that extended to the post game, Ryan McDonagh was called for covering the puck in the crease, an infraction that may have saved the Rangers’ 3-2 win.
It was Lundqvist who took care of the rest, squaring off against Philadelphia’s $52 million man Danny Briere when the Flyers were awarded a penalty shot. Briere’s speed and prowess down the ice may have frightened a mere commoner, but a Lundqvist stop sealed the icy deal for the Rangers, who took over the league’s top spot in the standings with the win. It was also the Flyers’ first regulation loss that season when leading after 40 minutes, boasting an 18-0-1 previously.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490