Lundqvist celebrates victory at Yankee Stadium

Lundqvist celebrates victory at Yankee Stadium

In the pantheon of the Rangers-Islanders rivalry, there are games that stand up and stand out. Tonight at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, for the first time ever, these two teams take the fight outside.

This is the richest rivalry in both team’s history. Older fans that date back to the Rangers B.C. (before Cup) know the fear and loathing of playing the Islanders. Newer fans that only know the Rangers A.C. (after Cup) don’t. You can see how younger NYR fans have a swagger and confidence about playing their “inferior” rival across the Mid-Town Tunnel. However, this season it’s the Islanders’ fans feeling good. Currently, the Isles have a 2-1 series lead with 2 games to play tonight and Friday. In celebration of tonight, let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane.

The upstart Isles came into the league in 1972 and had early success against the Rangers. In the playoffs of 1975, J.P. Parise (Zach’s dad) scored 11 seconds into OT of game 3 in the best of 3 opening round. The Isles shocked the heavily favored Rangers, but in 1979 the team from the City got their revenge. The Islanders were a team on the verge of a dynasty, but the Rangers won in 6 games en route to the finals!

“Potvin Sucks!” You all know the chant but some of you are clueless as to how it came to be. On Feb. 25th, 1979 a very good Rangers team was firing on all cylinders. Ulf Nilsson, a young forward with a lot of promise was becoming an offensive force. Enter Denis Potvin. The hulking defenseman crushed the kid, resulting in a broken ankle. Nilsson was lost for the season and was never the same again. Rangers fans still ponder, if Ulf was healthy, would they have won the Cup that year against Montreal? It doesn’t matter, because on that night, the greatest sports chant in history was born, “POTVIN SUCKS!”

Fast forward to 1994. The Islanders were now winners of 4 straight Cups and the Rangers were dealing with the “Curse of 1940”. Yes, the Rangers would finally win the Cup after 54 years. However, they needed to do something they hadn’t done in nearly 5 years. The Blueshirts had to win a game at the Nassau Coliseum.

March 5th, 1994 was a crucial game in that Championship season. If they didn’t break the Coliseum Hex, would they have beaten the Isles in the 1st round? In that game the Isles were flying and Richter was pulled early in the second, replaced by Healy. The former Islander did not fair better and was quickly yanked by Keenan in favor of Richter. It was crazy to say the least, as the Rangers had to make a few comebacks to get it tied at 4. Late in the third period and I remember it vividly, Sergei Zubov would take a shot that smashed the jinx. The young Russian blueliner was just inside the zone when he reared back and let one fly. The blast was like a rocket that beat Ron Hextall for a 5-4 victory. The sight of Zubov dropping to his knees and looking to the heavens while celebrating still gives me chills.

Tonight is not just another game in the rivalry. Tonight it’s about pride and bragging rights, not just for the fans but for the players. The Blueshirts want this one bad. I am sure the Islanders do to, but don’t they always when they play the big fish in the city? Bottom line is there will be no let down from the Rangers. The boys of Manhattan will be ready at the drop of the puck with the advantage of having played in Yankee Stadium on Sunday. Lundqvist and the gang are 2-0 in outdoor games and will aim to stay undefeated versus John Tavares and the Isalnders

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Dress warm if your going and strap yourselves in for a battle! NYR come away with this game 5-2.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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