May 8 in NYR history: One of the greatest wins in Blueshirt history

The New York Rangers celebrate their playoff victory over the New York Islanders on the ice at Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, 1979. Visible players include Steve Vickers (#8, left), John Davidson, Ed Johnstone, and Doug Soetaert (extreme right). (Photo by Melchior DiGiacomo/Getty Images)
The New York Rangers celebrate their playoff victory over the New York Islanders on the ice at Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, 1979. Visible players include Steve Vickers (#8, left), John Davidson, Ed Johnstone, and Doug Soetaert (extreme right). (Photo by Melchior DiGiacomo/Getty Images) /

What happened on May 8 in the history of the New York Rangers

On this date in 1979, the New York Rangers accomplished the improbable, beating the Islanders 2-1 in the sixth game of the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals.  The win eliminated the heavily favored Islanders and sent the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in seven years.

Mike Bossy gave the Islanders a lead in the first period, but the Rangers scored twice in the second period on goals by Don Murdoch and Ron Greschner and they held on for the win, allowing the powerful Islanders only three shots in the third period.  In fact, the first period goal by Bossy was the only point in the six game series after he led the NHL with 69 goals.  They held the Isles’ top line of Bryan Trottier, Clark Gillies and Bossy to only two goals and four points in the series.

The Islanders had finished first in the Patrick Division, leading the NHL with 116 points, 25 points ahead of the third place Rangers.  They had steamrollered the Chicago Black Hawks in the first series while the Rangers had to win a preliminary round over the Los Angeles Kings and then defeat the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Rangers had to come back in four of the six games overcoming Islander leads and they were led by goalie John Davidson and the line of 36-year-old Phil Esposito, flanked by 20-year-old rookie Don Maloney and 22-year-old Don Murdoch who had come back from a suspension for drug possession.

No Ranger fan will ever forget the image of a dazed Denis Potvin, slumped against the boards after the game ended and the Rangers celebrated.  Many considered it one of the finest moments in Rangers history, surpassed only by the Matteau game and the Stanley Cup championship in 1994.

The Rangers took the first game of the Final against Montreal, but that was the end of the magic as the Habs won the next four games to win their fourth straight Stanley Cup.

Messier’s 100th playoff goal

On this date in 1995, Mark Messier scored the 100th playoff goal of his glorious career in the New York Rangers’ 8-3 win over the  Quebec Nordiques in the second game of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals.  The game was in Quebec in a series won in six games by the Rangers.

Messier scored on the power play midway through the second period to give New York a 4-1 lead.

Messier became the third player in NHL history to scored 100 playoff goals, joining Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri, his Edmonton Oilers teammates.  Messier would finish with 109 goals, the second most in NHL history  behind Gretzky.

Graves gets punished

In 1992 on this date the NHL handed down the penalty for Adam Graves’ slash that broke Mario Lemieux’s wrist in Game Two of the Rangers’ Patrick Division Finals series with the Penguins.  Graves had been given a two minute minor penalty, but after a hearing with NHL Executive Vice President Brian O’Neill, he was suspended for four games.

The suspension would begin with Game Four of the series.  The Rangers had a 2-1 lead when Graves was suspended and would not win another game in the series, losing in six games.

The Penguins were irate that he didn’t get a stiffer penalty, but he league ruled that the slash was “not deemed as a deliberate attempt to injure.”  They did say that it “fell into the category of being extremely reckless and careless,” and that was the reason for the suspension.

A Hart Trophy for Rayner

On this date in 1950, Rangers goalie Chuck Rayner won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player.   The trophy is awarded to the player judged to be most valuable to his team and Rayner certainly fulfilled that category, taking the Blueshirts to Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Final.

Rayner was a Second Team All-Star for the fourth place Rangers, finishing fourth in the league in goals against average (2.62) and shutouts (6).

He was the second Ranger to win the Hart following Buddy O’Connor in 1948.  He is one of only seven NHL goalies to win the Hart Trophy and was the second to do it in NHL history, the first since Roy Worters of the New York Americans in 1929.

Today’s birthdays

There have been 22 NHL players born on May 8 including three who have played for the New York Rangers.

Kevin Hayes was born on this date in 1992 in Dorchester, Massachusetts.  Now with Philadelphia Flyers, Hayes was originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks, but became a free agent out of Boston College and signed with the Blueshirts in 2014.   He spent five years in New York before being traded to Winnipeg at the deadline in 2019.   He signed a big contract with the Flyers that summer.

Jussi Markkanen was born on May 8, 1975 in  Imatra, Finland.  Drafted by Edmonton in the fifth round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.  He became a Ranger when he was traded to New York for Brian Leetch, yes, Brian Leetch.   It was a strategic move for both teams The Rangers got a backup goaltender in Markkanen and signed Leetch when he became a free agent that summer.  The OIlers got a compensatory pick when Leetch (their property) was signed by New York.  Markkanen played most of the season with the Rangers before he was traded back to Edmonton along with Petr Nedved for Dwight Helminen, Steve Valiquette and a draft pick.

Corey Locke was a center who was born on this date in 1984 in Toronto, Ontario. Drafted by Montreal in 2003, he played one game for the Habs in 2008 before signing as a free gent with the Rangers in he summer of 2009.  He spent most of the 2009-10 season in Hartford, appearing in three games with the Rangers.  He signed the next season with Ottawa as a free agent and finished his career in Europe.

The numbers

The Rangers have never lost on May 8, winning all five playoff games that they have played on this date.

Playoff games: 5
Wins: 4
Losses: 0
Overtime wins: 1
Winning percentage: 100%

More. Losing the playoff narrative. light