On April 7 in NYR history: When the coach had to play goal

What happened on April 7 in the history of the New York Rangers

Today was the date of one of the most famous Stanley Cup Playoffs games in NHL history.  It was 1928 and the New York Rangers were in the Stanley Cup Final against the Montreal Maroons.  They had beaten the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Bruins to make it to the best of five final series.

With the first two games in Montreal, the Blueshirts had dropped the opener 2-0 and were in a scoreless battle in the second period when goalie Lorne Chabot took a puck to the eye.  A doctor said that he could not continue and with no backup goalies on the roster in those days, teams had to improvise.

Rangers Coach and General Manager Lester Patrick asked to use Ottawa Senators goalie Alex Connell who was watching the game, as his backup.  Maroon’s Coach Eddie Gerard refused the request and made it worse by not allowing the Rangers to use a minor league goalie who was in the arena.

Lester Patrick had no choice but to put on the pads and play goal.  Patrick was 44 years old and had never played goal in his career as a defenseman and was two years removed from playing regularly in the Western Hockey League.

His players vowed to protect him and Pittsburgh coach Odie Cleghorn volunteered to run the Rangers’ bench.  Both teams didn’t score in the second period as the Rangers kept Montreal’s shots to the perimeter.  Bill Cook gave the Rangers the lead thirty seconds into the third period, but Montreal knotted the score on a long goal by Nels Stewart that eluded Patrick.

The teams went to sudden death overtime and seven minutes in, with Patrick prone on the ice after making a save, Ching Johnson got the puck and took off for the Maroons’ zone. He passed to Frank Boucher who put the puck past Montreal goalie Clint Benedict.

Ironically, the 14,000 Montreal fans cheered wildly for every Patrick save, knowing that they were witnessing history.   It was the first overtime game in Rangers’ franchise history and the last time Lester Patrick put on a uniform and played.

The team was allowed to use New York Americans goalie Joe Miller for the rest of the series and after losing Game Three 2-0 at Madison Square Garden, the Blueshirts won the final two games of the series to win their first Stanley Cup.

Lester Patrick is one of two NHL players who have a perfect record in goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was joined by goalie Bob Champoux of the Detroit Red Wings in 1964 who won his only playoff game in relief of an injured Terry Sawchuk.   Patrick  is the only one who did it in the Stanley Cup Final.

Alain Vigneault axed

On this date in 2018, the Rangers fired coach Alain Vigneault after the team missed the playoffs and announced that they would be rebuilding.  It was the first time they had missed the playoffs in his five years as head coach.

The Rangers clearly didn’t believe that Vigneault was the guy to lead the team in its rebuilding effort, despite what he said after the Rangers lost their season finale, 5-0, to the Flyers.  He told reporters  “I think my staff is the right staff for this job. I think, and this is just my opinion, but I think one of the strongest assets of this organization is its coaching staff and their experience. We’ve been able to do it with veteran players, we’ve been able to do it with younger players. Our development record — and our record, wins and losses — you know what, it’s pretty good, with young and older players.”

General Manager Jeff Gorton was not buying it and cut him loose just after Vigneault made that statement. Vigneault left with a  226-147-37 record, a trip to the Stanley Cup Final and a Presidents’ Trophy.

Today’s birthdays

24 NHL players were born on April 7 including three New York Rangers, one who was a Stanley Cup winner who died tragically.

Alexander Karpovtsev was a defenseman born on this date in 1970 in Moscow, USSR.  The Rangers got him in a trade from Quebec in 1993 and he played 67 game as a 23 year old rookie that season.  He added 17 playoff games as the Rangers won the Stanley Cup.  He was one of four Russians on the team, the first Russians to win the Cup in NHL history.

He was traded to Toronto in 1998 for Mathieu Schneider and finished his career with 596 games for five different teams.  He was an assistant coach for the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl KHL team and died when the team plane crashed on take-off in September 2011. He was only 41 years old.

Pascal Dupuis was born on this date in 1979 in Laval, Quebec. A left winger, he played six games for the Rangers in an NHL career that spanned 15 seasons. He was acquired from Minnesota in a trade in 2006-07, played the six games and was then traded to Atlanta. He went on to have a productive career in Pittsburgh, winning the Stanley Cup in 2009.

Dan McCarthy was born on April 7, 1958 in St. Marys, Ontario   He was selected in the 15th round of the 1978 draft (223rd overall) and made it to New York for five games in the 1980-81 season. He was a pretty decent scorer in the AHL and the odd thing about his NHL career is that it lasted only five games despite the fact that he scored four goals in those five games, had a positive plus/minus rating of +3 and had two power play goals.  It could be because it was a tumultuous season and he did all of the scoring for coach Fred Shero who was fired mid-season and replaced by Craig Patrick.

The numbers

The Rangers have a horrible regular season record on April 7 , but are above .500 in the playoffs with their only overtime game the one when Lester Patrick played goal.

Games: 17
Regulation wins: 5
Regulation losses: 11
Overtime losses: 1
Points percentage: .323

Playoffs games: 10
Wins: 5
Losses: 4
Overtime wins: 1
Winning percentage: 60%