On February 14 in NYR History: Getting even with Mario Lemieux

NEW YORK - CIRCA 1984: Mario Lemieux #66 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Rangers during an NHL Hockey game circa 1984 at Madison Square Garden in the Manhattan borough of New York City. Lemieux playing career went from 1984-97 and 2000-2006. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - CIRCA 1984: Mario Lemieux #66 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Rangers during an NHL Hockey game circa 1984 at Madison Square Garden in the Manhattan borough of New York City. Lemieux playing career went from 1984-97 and 2000-2006. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

What happened on February 14 in the history of the New York Rangers

There was never any love lost between the New York Rangers and Mario Lemieux.  Whether it was envy or rivalry, Lemieux delighted in tormenting the Blueshirts.  He scored an incredible 61 goals and 132 points against New York in 70 games.  Simply amazing and that was just in the regular season.

In the postseason he had 11 goals and 17 points in 11 games in three playoff series against New York.  The low point was when Adam Graves slashed Lemieux and broke his hand in the 1992 Patrick Division Final.  Graves was suspended four games and the Penguins eliminated the Rangers in six games.  Lemieux missed five games with the injury and went on to win the Stanley Cup.

But it was on this date in 1990 that the Rangers triumphed in their rivalry with Lemieux.   They stopped Super Mario in his quest to achieve the longest point scoring streak in NHL history. Wayne Gretzky had set the mark with the Oilers in 1984, scoring in 51 straight games.

When Pittsburgh came to Madison Square Garden on this date in 1990, Lemieux’s streak was at 46. It was the second to last game of the season for Lemieux due to a bad back so he would have had to keep the streak going into the next fall, but the Rangers were determined to end it.  They held him scoreless for the first 40 minutes and then Lemieux’s bad back helped as he couldn’t take to the ice in the third period.

He almost got a point when John Cullen hit the post with a shot.  The puck caromed to Mark Recchi and he scored, but the post cost Lemieux an assist and a shot at the record. As for the game, the Penguins prevailed 4-3.

Lemieux scored a point in his next four games. That would have taken him to 51. Sorry Mario.

Biggest margin of victory

On this date in 1940, the Rangers beat Montreal 9-0 at Madison Square Garden. That set a franchise record for the largest margin of victory and surpassed the seven goal margin they had achieved in 1928 in a game against the New York Americans.

The Rangers would tied the nine goal margin twice in the next decade and finally top the mark with a 12-1 win over the California Golden Seals in November, 1971.

The largest margin of victory for the current Rangers is five, in their 5-0 win over the Islanders lat month.  Five goals was the biggest margin for the 2019-20 team, in a win over Vegas.

A mark for Dionne

On this date in 1988, Marcel Dionne scored two power play goals in a 4-4 time with the Islanders. With the goals, he took over second place all-time in goal scoring, breaking a tie he had with Phil Esposito at 717 goals.   His 719 goals trailed only Gordie Howe who had scored 801 goals.

Dionne finished his career with 731 goals and now sits in sixth place overall having been passed by Gretzky, Jaromir Jagr, Brett Hul and most recently, Alex Ovechkin.

The last time….

On this date in 2010, Sean Avery scored on a penalty shot at Madison Square Garden in a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.  That was the last successful penalty shot by a Ranger at MSG with five Blueshirts missing in the last 11 years.  The most recent was Chris Kreider who didn’t score last April against the Penguins. It was Kreider’s fourth attempt at a penalty shot and he has missed all four times.  Others who have failed since Avery’s goal on their attempts in front of a home crowd include Julien Gauthier, Marian Gaborik and Jesper Fast.

While 11 years is a long time, the Rangers have scored on the road, but it has been over five years since Dan Boyle scored against the Vancouver Canucks.  The Ranger current futility streak sits at eight straight failed penalty shots.

A big contract for the King

On this date in 2008, Henrik Lundqvist signed a six-year, $4125 million contract.   In hindsight, this contract led to future consequences in the team’s dealings with the goalie.  They had signed him to a one-year extension after his Entry Level Contract expired in 2007, then signed him to this six-year deal.  That meant that he was a UFA at age 32 and led to the seven-year, $59.5 million deal he signed in 2013.   It led to the buyout of the last year of that deal and a sizeable dead cap space hit.

In hindsight, if the Rangers had signed him to the maximum eight year deal in 2007 or 2008, it would have taken him to UFA status next in 2015 of 2016 when he was 33 or 34.  Though he was showing no signs of slowing down, it would have led to a  very interesting contract negotiation at that time. He might have been allowed to leave via free agency if the Rangers weren’t willing to pony up big dollars and long term to keep him.

Today’s birthdays

36 NHL players have been born on Valentine’s Day including six players who have worn a Rangers jersey.

Marian Gaborik was born on this date in 1982 in Trencin, Czechoslovakia.  Signed as a free agent in 2009, he played in New York fo a lmost  four years before John Tortorella got him traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Gaborik was one of the most gifted natural goal scorers to ever play for the Rangers, topping the 40 goal mark twice.

Gaborik won a Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, scoring several key goals against his former team. As a Minnesota Wild, the right winger had also scored five goals in one game against the Rangers.

Walt Poddubny was born on this date in 1960 in Thunder Bay, Ontario.  The left winger was an excellent goal score who only played two seasons in New York, scoring 40 and 38 goals.  He was traded to Quebec for defenseman Normand Rochefort in 1988.  Poddubny sits in eighth place on the franchise all-time list with 65 power play goals.  Not a bad total for only two seasons with the Rangers.

Simo Saarinen was a Finnish defenseman born on this date in 1963 in Helsinki.  Drafted in the 10th round of the 1982 Entry Draft, he made it to New York for eight games in the 1984-85 season.  He was scoreless with a plus/minus of -5, but never really had a chance.  He suffered lligament damage in his knee and had to sit out the rest of the season and most of the following season. He returned to Finland and played 10 more years.

Howie Glover was a right winger who was born on this date in 1935 in Toronto, Ontario.  He played five years in the NHL including one season (1963-64)  when he played 25 goals in New York, scoring one goal.

Frank Bathgate was a center born in 1930 in Winnipeg, Manitoba and played two games for the Rangers in the 1952-53 season.  He was scoreless in those two games and no doubt made his way to the Rangers because he was the brother of Andy Bathgate.

Val Delory was a left winger, born on this date in 1927 in Toronto, Ontario.  He is one of the players who suited up for only one game in his NHL career, with the Rangers in the 1948-49 season.

The numbers

The Rangers have played 39 times on February 14 and have a Valentine’s Day record slight above .500, though they are winless in overtime games.

Games: 39
Regulation wins: 16
Regulation losses: 15
Ties: 6
Overtime losses: 1
Shootout losses: 1
Points percentage: .513

Hot. Some rule changes we'd like to see. light