Rangers and Islanders have their last dance at Nassau Coliseum, here’s to the greatest game played between them in history

By Anthony Scultore
Zubov blasts away Coliseum hex in 1994 (MSG screen cap)

The Rangers and Islanders are bitter rivals and tonight they will battle for the last time at the Nassau Coliseum. Next season the UBS Arena in Elmont will be the new home for the Isles and many new memories will be made for both teams. However, the Blueshirts could put up one last win in the Isles “Old Barn”, a permanent stain in the battle between the New York hockey clubs.

The Rangers and Islanders Coliseum History

The Nassau Coliseum opened in 1972 on Uniondale, Long Island and has hosted 131 Rangers vs Islanders classics with the last one on tap today. The Blueshirts 56-64-8-3 and would love to close out that building with one final victory.

Cloutier fights Salo, kind of (Roca/NYDN 1998)
Cloutier fights Salo, kind of (Roca/NYDN 1998)

Each individual Ranger fan will have their own opinion of which game was the greatest Blueshirt win at the Coliseum. Some may not even care if the Rangers won, maybe it was just a special game to be at or something memorable happened.

For younger fans, it could be the 2016, 6-5 come from behind victory. Or maybe it was the Dan Cloutier game in 1998? That was when Rangers’ goalie Dan Cloutier pummeled Tommy Salo then went over the Islanders bench and taunted them to come get him.

Older fans may remark a game from the late 70’s or early 80’s, but those were some lean times for the Rangers as the Islanders had built a dynasty that would capture 4 straight Cups and 5 straight Final appearances.

Rangers break Coliseum hex in 1994

For me, the greatest Rangers/Islanders game at the Nassau Coliseum came in 1994. The Rangers were dealing with the “Curse of 1940″ and the Islanders had just come off a trip to the Eastern Conference Final the year before. Yes, the Rangers were looking like a team of destiny as they were steamrolling teams to the President’s Trophy. 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.

Stan Fischler wrote:

As for wounds, Healy soon would suffer hurt feelings after erroneously wandering from the net to clear a loose puck. Healy missed, Benoit Hogue followed up and scored. Furious, Keenan signaled Healy to return to the Rangers bench.  After just a little more than 11minutes of the game, the Rangers coach had seen enough of Healy and unceremoniously gave his back-up the hook. Glenn hardly kept his displeasure to himself and when he reached the bench the coach and goalie exchanged words. 

Keenan: “There was no discussion whatsoever. Glenn asked if he was coming out because of the mistake he made and I didn’t say one word.”

Healy: “I offered just a kind ‘hello’ to Mike! I don’t play for my coach; I play for myself and my teammates.”

The drama at this point was already as high as the stakes. 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 (skip to 1:24:00).

BOX SCORE

It was glorious and one of the best feelings I ever had watching a Rangers/Islanders game. The moment that Zubov scored left such a lasting impression on me that whenever these two teams play, that is number one in my mental highlight reel.

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