Top 10 Rangers Stanley Cup playoff OT goals

Stephen Matteau, stick raised, celebrates the greatest OT goal in New York Rangers history.

Derek Stepan’s overtime goal the other night propelled the New York Rangers past the Washington Capitals into the Eastern Conference finals. The Game 7 goal was one of the biggest OT tallies in Ranger history. Here are 10 to remember:

1. Matteau, Matteau, Matteau: Stephen Matteau’s wraparound goal early in the second overtime in Game 7 beat Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur and sent the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup finals, where they would end a fabled 54-year championship drought. The Howie Rose call “Matteau, Matteau, Matteau” lives on in Rangers lore. Matteau also scored a double overtime goal in Game 3.

2. Triple Threat: Bryon Hextall scored an overtime game-winner at the 2:07 mark in Game 6 as the Rangers beat the Maple Leafs, 3-2, to win the 1940 Stanley Cup. Alf Pike in Game 1 and Muzz Patrick in double overtime of Game 5 also scored OT winners as the Blueshirts captured their third Stanley Cup. IMG_1372

3. Cup Winner: Bill Cook became the first player to score a Cup-winning goal in overtime as the Rangers beat Toronto, 1-0, in the 1933 finals. The Rangers would vacate Madison Square Garden for the circus after a first game victory, and took the best-of-five series in four games. Cook was the team’s first captain and was later elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

4. Stepan, Stepan, Stepan: Derek Stepan buried a rebound midway through the first overtime and the Rangers knocked out Washington in a tense, seven-game Eastern Conference semifinal in 2015. Each game was decided by a single goal.

5. The Stemmer: Pete Stemkowski scored in triple overtime to end the fifth longest game in Rangers history and set up a Game 7 showdown with the Blackhawks in the 1971 semifinals. Despite Stemkowski’s heroics, which also featured an OT winner in Game 1, Chicago won the series in seven games.

6. Gravy Train: Adam Graves scored at 14:08 of the first overtime to lead the Rangers past the Devils and into the 1997 Eastern Conference finals. The 2-1 victory enabled the Blueshirts to win the series in five games despite losing the opener.

7. Raleigh Rally: Center Don “Bones” Raleigh scored overtime goals in Games 4 and 5 to beat the Red Wings in the 1950 Stanley Cup finals. However Detroit won Games 6 and 7, the last in double overtime after Raleigh’s shot hit the crossbar, to deny the Rangers.

8. Hot Rod: All-time Rangers leading goal scorer Rod Gilbert (406 goals), pictured at left, scored on a slap shot at 4:20 of the first overtime as the Rangers beat the Flyers, 2-1, in Game 4 of the 1974 semifinals. Philadelphia won the series in seven games, then beat Boston for its first Stanley Cup.

9. Gaborik’s Goal: Marian Gaborik’s tally at 14:41 of the third overtime gave the Rangers a 2-1 win over the Capitals in Game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals. It was the third longest game in New York franchise history.

10. Hagelin’s Heroics: Carl Hagelin’s goal in the first overtime of the 2015 first round against Pittsburgh gave the Rangers the series in five games. It marked the team’s series-clinching OT goal since 1997, and the first at Madison Square Garden since Stephan Matteau’s gamer 21 years ago.

Workin’ overtime: Esa Tikkanen scored a pair of OT winners in a first round five-game series win in 1997…Bob Nevin delivered the clincher in Game 6 of a 1971 first-round series victory over Toronto…Fred Cook scored at 19:32 of the third overtime in the second longest game in Rangers history in the 1932 semifinals against Montreal.

Complete list of Stanley Cup overtime goals

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Finally, Blueshirts are back in the Finals

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist exults as the Rangers advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

I began following the New York Rangers in grammar school. Back then there were just six teams in the NHL, and yet the Rangers missed the playoffs eight of nine seasons between 1958 and 1966. They weren’t very good….or else they weren’t quite good enough…and those would become  prevailing themes as I followed the Blueshirts through the years.

I went to my first hockey game in 1967, just days before Christmas, at the old Madison Square Garden on Eighth Avenue. The Rangers got blanked by the Boston Bruins that night, but the team was on the rise, thanks primarily to goalie Eddie Giacomin.

In 1972, the Rangers, fueled by superb goaltending and the GAG (goal a game) line of Jean Ratelle, Rod Gilbert and Vic Hadfield made the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in my lifetime. There they lost to Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and the Bruins in six games.

Several years later Espo was traded to the Rangers, and with John Davidson between the pipes the  Broadway Blues knocked off the Islanders and made it to the Finals in 1979, only to lose to the Montreal Canadiens in five.

The Islanders dominated the early 80s winning four straight Stanley Cups. Meanwhile the Rangers title drought continued, often to the accompaniment of 1940 chants in visiting arenas.

The Messiah delivers

Before the 1991-92 season began, the Rangers acquired Mark Messier, below, from the Edmonton Oilers with the express purpose of delivering a Stanley Cup. And the Messiah delivered, with help from defenseman Brian Leetch, goalie Mike Richter and a stellar supporting cast.

I was in the house on June 14, 1994, when the Rangers ended a 54-year jinx, defeating the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 to win their first Cup since 1940. That night, a fan in the Garden unfurled a banner that read “Now I can die in peace.” We all felt that way.

But not even the great Wayne Gretzy could bring another championship to the Rangers. After reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 1997, the Rangers missed the playoffs seven years in a row.

A rookie goalie named Henrik Lundqvist arrived in 2005, and backstopped the Rangers to their first playoff appearance since 1997. The Rangers gradually built a team to support Lundqvist, making a big trade to acquire sniper Martin St. Louis just before the trading deadline, and now they are back in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 20 years.

Some playoff runs are expected. The 1994 Rangers had the best record in the NHL during the regular season, and were favored to win the Cup. This year’s team has been a surprise, taking New York fans along for the ride. New York has become RangerTown.

After beating the Flyers in the first round, the Rangers rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Penguins, then topped the Canadiens in six to advance to the Finals. They’re now on the doorstop, on the verge of making hockey history.


40 years later, Rangers-Bruins meet again

For the first time in 40 years, the Rangers and Bruins will do battle in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

40 years is a long time. Surprising it’s been that long since these two Original Six rivals met in a playoff series.

When the Rangers and Bruins last met in the post-season, there were only 16 teams in the NHL and half of them made the playoffs.

The year was 1973. Watergate was percolating and Richard Nixon was on the way out, the average annual income was $12,900, and Secretariat won the Triple Crown. This intrepid sportswriter was about to graduate from Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., a Ranger fan in a sea of Bruins black and gold.

Meeting for the third time in four years, the Rangers ambushed the Bruins in five games in their 1973 first-round clash. Goalie Eddie Giacomin’s shutout in Game 4 and Calder Trophy winner Steve Vicker’s, shown above, hat trick in the 6-3 finale at Boston Garden led the Rangers to the series win.

The Bruins, led by Conn Smythe Trophy winner Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and a star-studded cast, beat the Rangers in six games in 1972 to win the Stanley Cup. The B’s also won the Cup in 1970, knocking off the Rangers in six games in the quarterfinals.

In total, the Rangers and Bruins have met nine times in the playoffs, with the Bruins winning six of those match-up. In 1958, the Bruins beat the Rangers in a six-game semifinal.

The rivals clashed three straight years beginning in 1927. In 1928, New York beat Boston 5-2 in a two-game, total-goal semifinal format, then beat the Montreal Maroons to win the Stanley Cup. The Bruins captured the Cup in 1929 when they beat the Rangers 2-0 in the finals.

In 1939, Mel “Sudden Death” Hill became a household name in New England when he scored three overtime goals to help the Bruins beat the Rangers in the semifinals and went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Rangers returned the favor in 1940, beating Boston in six games and then topping Toronto 4-2 in the Cup finals. It would be 54 years before they won another.