I’m just watching the classic games go ’round and ’round, Rangers, Devils and Islanders from yesteryear on MSG. And while it is the playoff memories that tend to endure for a lifetime, there have been a boatload of regular season performances that captivate the imagination.
For instance, by Mika Zibanejad.
As follows, the top 14 individual regular season performances in New York/New Jersey history.
14. Fifty-six saves by Rick DiPietro at the Garden on March 5, 2007. The Blueshirts outshot the Islanders 57-30 yet needed Matt Cullen’s shootout tally to defeat DiPietro, 2-1, as the netminder established a franchise single-game record for saves that was broken three years later when Dwayne Roloson stopped 58 in an overtime victory in Toronto.
13. A franchise-record 59 saves by Mike Richter in Vancouver on Jan. 31, 1991 in the Rangers’ 3-3 tie. Canucks should have scored that fourth goal, for immediately following the game, Bob McCammon was fired as coach and replaced behind the bench by GM Pat Quinn.
12. Fifty-one saves by Martin Brodeur at MSG on Jan. 12, 2010 in the Devils’ 1-0 shootout victory over the Rangers in which Patrik Elias scored in the fourth round of the skills competition against Henrik Lundqvist, who’d made 45 saves in the only double shutout in the history of the Battle of the Hudson.
11. Randy McKay and John Madden, not exactly Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora, score four goals apiece for the Devils in a 9-0 victory over the Penguins at Pittsburgh on Oct. 28, 2000.
10. Threes are wild as the Blueshirts’ Steve Vickers becomes the first freshman in NHL history to record back-to-back hat tricks, striking for three goals against the Flyers on Nov. 15, 1972 three days after getting three against the Kings, with both games at the Garden.
9. The best regular season performance of Henrik Lundqvist’s career, the King making 42 saves in a 3-0 victory in Boston on Feb. 14, 2012, in which the Rangers are outshot 18-3 in the third period, 32-8 over the final 40 minutes, and out-attempted 34-5 in the third. After the game, Lundqvist says this: “It’s my seventh season. The clock is ticking.”
8. An explosion of offense for Rod Gilbert, who scores four goals while sending an NHL record 16 shots on Rogie Vachon in the Rangers’ 6-1 victory in Montreal on Feb. 24, 1968. Record would be eclipsed by Raymond Bourque, who recorded 19 shots in the Bruins’ 3-3 tie against Quebec on March 21, 1991 in which Nordiques netminder Ron Tugnutt made 69 saves.
7. Five for Pav, with Mark Pavelich becoming the first and only American-born player to score five goals in a game in the Rangers’ 11-3 victory over the Whalers at MSG on Feb. 23, 1983, the final goal coming with 11:09 remaining in the game.
6. Dial 14 for Murder, Don Murdoch scoring five goals in the fourth game of his NHL career in Minnesota in the Blueshirts’ 10-4 victory over the North Stars on Oct. 12, 1976. Final goal came on the power play at 19:55 of the third period.
5. Bryan Trottier records a franchise-record eight points while scoring five goals in the Islanders’ 9-4 victory over the Rangers at the Coliseum on Dec. 23, 1978. Trottier would also score five goals on five shots on Feb. 13, 1982 in an 8-2 victory at home over the Flyers in which Mike Bossy records five assists.
4. Halfway home with Jean Ratelle overtaking Phil Esposito for the 1971-72 NHL halfway scoring lead (which was a real thing) by recording five points to vault over No. 77 by one point, 72-71, in an 8-0 victory over the Kings at the Garden on Jan. 9, 1972. Tied after getting a goal and three assists through the first two periods, Ratelle registers a power-play assist with 8:19 to go in the game as fans spend the third counting aloud the number of passes following No. 19 touching the puck.
3. Mika’s Game, No. 93 scoring five goals, including the overtime breakaway backhand winner in the Blueshirts’ compelling 6-5 victory over the Caps in the penultimate match played at the Garden on March 5, 2020.
2. Johnny Mac makes history, John MacLean scoring the tying goal at 11:57 of the third period before getting the winning goal at 2:21 of overtime — both on rebounds in the slot left by Darren Pang — to give the Devils a 4-3 victory in Chicago on April 3, 1988 on the final day of the season to thereby clinch the first playoff berth in team history. Tie or defeat would have eliminated team and given final spot to the Rangers.
1. Two in the third for 50 in 50 for Mike Bossy, who, under immense self-made pressure to tie Maurice Richard’s goal-scoring standard established in 1944-45, strikes at 15:50 and 18:31 of the third period against Quebec’s Ron Grahame in the Islanders’ 7-4 victory at the Coliseum on Jan. 24, 1981 after having been blanked the previous two games.