On March 11 in NYR history: A season ends & no one knew it

Mar 11, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz (39) stops a shot by New York Rangers right wing Pavel Buchnevich (89) in the second period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz (39) stops a shot by New York Rangers right wing Pavel Buchnevich (89) in the second period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

What happened on March 11 in the history of the New York Rangers

The biggest thing that happened on this date took place two years ago and no one knew it. The Rangers lost an overtime thriller to the Colorado Avalanche in what would turn out to be the final regular season game of the 2019-20 season.

The big news this date was the suspension of the NBA season.  While the Rangers were on the ice in Denver, the NBA suspended play for a minimum of 30 days after two Utah Jazz players tested positive for COVID-19 before their game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder.  On the same day, all travel from Europe was suspended for 30 days and the NCAA announced that March Madness would be played with no fans.

In the NHL, the San Jose Sharks had announced that they would play with no fans and Ohio had announced a ban on mass gatherings.  The Blue Line Station headline that night was “New York Rangers: NBA suspends season, is the NHL next?”

As for the game,  the Rangers salvaged a point when Pavel Buchnevich scored to tie the game with only 13 seconds left in regulation.  It was the first time the Rangers had scored a tying goal in the last minute since April 2019.    The tying goal came with Alexandar Georgiev pulled and just after a penalty to Bendan Lemieux had expired.

The Lemieux penalty resulted in his suspension for the first two games of the Stanley Cup Qualifier as it was an unwarranted head shot on Joonas Donskoi of the Avalanche.  It was one of the dumber penalties taken by the Rangers all season.

J.T. Compher scored to win the game at 2:50 in overtime for Colorado. Georgiev stopped a Matt Nieto penalty shot earlier in the third period

No one had any idea that this was the last game the Rangers would play for almost five months.

The decision to suspend the season would come on March 12, but the 11th will go down in history as the last day of the 2019-20 season, an unprecedented event in NHL history.

Too many ties

When we talk about too many ties, it’s not the Father’s Day gift kind.  On this date in 1951 the Rangers played their 21st tie of the season, establishing a new franchise record. They smashed the team record of 13 set in 1948.   That’s 21 ties in 70 games, almost one third of their schedule.

The team’s final record was 20-29-21 as they had more ties than wins, a record they repeated in 1954-55 (18 ties, 17 wins).  They finished in fifth place in the six team league starting a string of five straight years of missing the playoffs.

Believe it or not, the 1997-98 Rangers came close, with 18 ties in an 82 game season.  With the shootout now adopted in the NHL, this is a club record that we can safely say will never be broken. Incidentally, the NHL record belongs to the 1969-70 Philadelphia Flyers who had 24 ties that season.

Four goals in overtime?

On this date in 1934, the Montreal Maroons set a record against the New York Rangers, scoring four goals in overtime for a 7-3 win at Madison Square Garden. In those days there was a ten minute overtime that wasn’t sudden death.  So, teams were free to score as often as they could and in this case, it was an NHL record four goals.

Today’s birthdays

27 NHL players have been born on March 11 and six of them suited up for the New York Rangers.  How many do you remember?

Martin Rucinsky was born in 1971 in  Most, Czechoslovakia on this date. He was a solid left winger who had three separate stints in New York.  Rucinsky played in the 2000 All-Star game when he scored 25 goals for Montreal. Swapped to Dallas, he was traded to the Rangers at the trade deadline in 2002 for Manny Malhotra and scored 13 points in 15 games.  He then signed as a free agent with St. Louis.

The next summer he signed with the Rangers and played a season with them, scoring 13 goals and 42 points in 2003-04. They traded him in the trade deadline purge of 2004 to the Vancouver Canucks.  After the lockout year he signed again with the Rangers as one of the “Czechmates” with Jaromir Jagr, and played one season before departing again via free agency.   In 136 games in New York he scored 32 goals and totaled 110 points.

Bob Plager was born on this date in 1943 in Kirkland Lake,Ontario. He was a defenseman who played parts of three season with the Rangers starting in 1964 before ending up in St.Louis for 11 years where he played with his better known brother, Barclay who was known for his toughness.

Raimo Helminen was a center, born on this date in 1964 in Tampere, Finland.  He was a second round Rangers draft pick and made it to the NHL in 1985-86 where he played one full season before being traded to the Minnesota North Stars.  He had a long career in the Swedish Hockey League and in international competition after leaving North America.

Daniel Lacroix was born on this date in 1969 in Montreal,Quebec.  He was selected 31st overall in the second round of the 1987 draft by New York and made it to the Rangers for four games before he was traded to Boston.  The Bruins waived him in 1995 and the Rangers snatched him up and he played the 1995-96 season in New York, scoring two goals in 25 games.  The Blueshirts let him go via free agency the next season and he signed with the Flyers.

Bill Ezinicki was a right winger, born on this date in 1924 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He played the last year of his  nine year NHL career with the Rangers in 1954-55.  He spent his earlier seasons in Toronto and Boston, leading the NHL in penalty minutes in 1949 while with the Maple Leafs.

Mark Morrison was born on this date in 1963 in Prince George, British Columbia and is the classic case of a big time Canadian Juniors scorer not able to translate that to the NHL.  The Rangers thought they had lucked into a diamond in the rough in their third round pick in 1981 when he went out and scored 48 goals in 56 games for the Victoria Cougars of the WHL.   He followed that with 55 goals and 130 points in 58 games as an overage player.  He made it to the Rangers in 1981-82 for nine games and one more game in 1983-84  and scored one goal.  The small (5’8″) center found success in Europe where he was a big scorer in Italy and the U.K.

The numbers

41 games on March 11 and a sub .500 record.

Games: 40
Regulation wins: 12
Regulation losses: 19
Ties: 4
Overtime wins: 1
Overtime losses: 4
Shootout wins: 1
Points percentage: .439

More. An ugly loss to the Blues. light