What happened on February 2 in the history of the New York Rangers
February 2, 1969 was a record setting night for rookie defenseman Brad Park. In a 7-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden, he became the first Rangers defenseman to get four assists in one game. The four assists also tied the franchise record for most assists in a game, reached 22 times before. Park was also the first Rangers rookie to do it.
At the time, he set an NHL record as the youngest defenseman in NHL history to get four assists in a game, at 20 years, 211 days. That record was broken by Glen Wesley of the Boston Bruins in 1988 who tallied five assists. Park still holds the franchise record as the youngest blueliner to accomplish the feat.
Forward Mikko Leinonen broke Park’s rookie record with six assists in one playoff game on April 8, 1982 against the Flyers. Brian Leetch broke the overall assists mark for a defenseman with five assists in a game in 1995, against the Penguins just like Park.
Park was a rookie in the 1968-69 season, still looking for his first goal. The sold out MSG crowd went wild when they thought he had scored on a 60 foot slapshot, but it was actually deflected by Jean Ratelle and the fans booed when that announcement was made. The tip-in gave Park a place in the record books.
One of the first with a helmet?
On this date in 1970, the Rangers traded for forward Bruce MacGregor, acquiring him and defenseman Larry Brown from the Detroit Red Wings for Arnie Brown and Mike Robitaille. What makes this distinctive is that MacGregor became the first New York Ranger player to regularly wear a helmet after the death of Bill Masterton in 1968. The first Ranger to wear a helmet regularly was Red Berenson in 1966 who had started to wear a helmet when he played for Montreal despite the ridicule he got from other players and his own coach, Toe Blake. Berenson played 49 games for New York before going on to star with the Blues.
The death of the Minnesota North Stars’ Masterton was a watershed event. He suffered severe head trauma when his head hit the ice after a hit in a game in January 1968 and it is the only death as a result of a game injury. It convinced players like MacGregor to go with a helmet.
MacGregor initially balked at reporting to New York after 11 years in Detroit, but he finally did and became a mainstay on the penalty kill for the Blueshirts. As far as helmets, he was joined by Bobby Rousseau the following season as two of the first players who wore helmets on the team.
An Esposito milestone
On this date in 1980, Phil Esposito scored his 700th career goal in a 6-3 win over the Capitals in Washington. Espo scored twice, once on the power play, giving him 24 goals on the season. He would score ten more times in the season giving him a total of 34, his 13th straight season with over 30 goals. He would retire the next season at age 38 after scoring only seven goals in 41 games.
A rarity against the Islanders
On this date in 2006, Martin Straka did something that had never happened when playing the Islanders and has not happened since. He scored on a penalty shot in a 5-2 win at the Nassau Coliseum. Straka had been tackled by Joel Bouchard on a breakaway and he beat Rick DiPietro with a wrist shot to give the Blueshirts a 4-0 lead.
Don Murdoch and Marian Gaborik missed in the only two other penalty shots against the Isles.
28 NHL players have been born on February 2 with two former Rangers in that total.
Right winger Jody Hull was born on this date in 1969 in Petrolia, Ontario. He played 16 years in the NHL for six teams including one season with the Rangers. He came to New York from Hartford in a trade for Carey Wilson, but was dealt to Ottawa a year later.
Alex Levinsky was a defenseman born on February 2, 1910 in Syracuse, New York. He played nine years in the NHL including 20 games for the Rangers in 1934-35 season. He’s best known for his nickname “Mine Boy.” The nickname came from what his father would yell when attending his son’s games, “That’s mine boy.”
The Rangers have played 39 games in their history on February 2, winning just 14 games in regulation, but salvaging eight ties.
Regulation wins: 14
Regulation losses: 16
Overtime wins: 1
Points percentage: .487