What happened on February 1 in the history of the New York Rangers
On this date in 2020, Henrik Lundqvist was between the pipes in Detroit as the Rangers took on the Red Wings. It was the second of a home-and-home series and Lundqvist started a night after his heir apparent, Igor Shesterkin, had beaten the Red Wings at the Garden.
It was a vintage Lundqvist performance as he stopped 33 shots and made Mika Zibanejad’s first period power play goal hold up for a 1-0 win. It was Lundqvist’s first shutout in over two years, since he had blanked the Senators in November 2017.
What no one realized, was that this was the last win of Lundqvist’s glorious career, his 459th win and 64th shutout, both franchise records. He would go on to appear in eight more games and two games in the Stanley Cup Qualifier, but was not able to get a win in those games.
It was an unfortunate situation with the arrival of Igor Shesterkin creating a three goalie system for the Blueshirts with the two younger players, Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev, outplaying a Rangers legend and future Hall of Famer.
In his career Lundqvist had a regular season record of 10-13-1 in 1-0 games, but his most famous 1-0 game was his Eastern Conference Finals Game Six win over the Montreal Canadiens that sent the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years.
It’s quite a coincidence that two legendary Rangers goalies both won their last NHL games, both shutouts, separated by 50 years. But that’s in our next entry in Ranger’s history.
Sawchuk’s last win
On this date in 1970 history was made, but as with Lundqvist, no one knew it was happening at the time. Goaltender Terry Sawchuk got his last NHL win, a shutout, as the Rangers beat the Penguins 6-0 at Madison Square Garden. It was 445th career win and 103rd shutout, at the time, the most of any goaltender in NHL history.
The Rangers had acquired the 40 year old Sawchuk in a trade with Detroit before the season to serve as a backup to Eddie Giacomin and he was precisely that, making only eight appearances. The February 1 start was only his fourth of the season. His final regular season start was a 7-4 loss to the Black Hawks on March 14.
He did appear in two playoff games that spring, starting in a 5-3 loss in the quarterfinals to the Boston Bruins. He appeared in his last NHL game in that series, in relief of Giacomin. Coach Emile Francis put him in the game to create a stoppage (this was before timeouts) and he played about a minute.
Sawchuk died after the season after he had a fight with teammate and roommate Ron Stewart. He suffered a liver injury during what he called “horseplay” and he never recovered.
Sawchuk is still eighth overall in career wins and is second to Martin Brodeur in career shutouts. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971.
Chuck Rayner tries to score
Rangers goalie Chuck Rayner was acknowledged as one of the best skaters and stickhandlers among NHL goalies and on this date in 1947, he tried to fulfill his lifelong dream of scoring in an NHL game by skating the puck all the way to the Montreal zone not once, but three times in a 2-1 loss to the Canadiens at the Montreal Forum.
Rayner was such a good skater that coach Frank Boucher actually used him on the points on the power play and he was known for his forays up ice. He did score a goal while playing for a Navy team in WWII, skating up ice and beating the opposing goalie.
Rayner won the Hart Trophy in 1950, the second goalie to ever win the award.
A penalty shot expert
On this date, Ranger Alex Shibicky scored on a penalty shot, the first successful one of his career. It came in a 6-1 over the Black Hawks at Madison Square Garden. Seven years later, the right winger would score another penalty shot goal, becoming the first Ranger with two successful penalty shots in his career with the franchise.
He still holds the Rangers record, though it was tied by Pavel Bure who scored twice in the 2002-03 campaign.
28 NHL players were born on February 1 including five former Rangers, though there are no household names in the group.
Mark Hardy was born on this date in 1959 in Samedan, Switzerland. He was the first Swiss born skater to play for the Rangers, though he was born there because his Canadian father was playing for a Swiss hockey team. Hardy had two stints with the Rangers from 1987 to 1993, playing 284 games. He was best known as a stay-at-home defenseman, scoring seven goals in parts of six seasons.
Jayson Megna played six games for the Rangers in the 2015-16 season. He was born on this date in 1990 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The center had an auspicious debut, scoring a goal and adding an assist in a 6-2 win over Dallas on January 5, 2016. Those were the only two points he would get as a Ranger in six games before returning to the AHL.
Bob Blackburn was a defenseman who was born on this date in 1938 in Rouyn, Quebec. He played 11 games for the Rangers in the 1968-69 season.
Charley Mason was born on this date in 1912 in Seaforth, Ontario. He was a right winger and he played 74 games over two seasons in 1934-36. He played four years in the NHL for four different teams.
Wayne Rivers was a right winger who was born on February 1, 1942 in Hamilton, Ontario. He played four games in New York in the 1968-69 season, going pointless. He had a productive career in the WHA, scoring 54 goals for the San Diego Mariners in 1974-75.
The Rangers have played 36 times on the first day of February with a solid .597 points percentage, winning 17 times in regulation.
Regulation wins: 17
Regulation losses: 11
Shootout wins: 1