The 2017 playoffs start on Wednesday, and the Montreal Canadiens will pair up against another Original Six team, the New York Rangers.
This will be only the 15th meeting between the two clubs in the post-season, which is a bit surprising, given the long history of both these clubs. The Rangers actually hold a series lead, having won eight out of the previous 14 series.
Here are some of the more memorable moments from these series.
March 28th, 1930- The First Fourth Overtime Period in NHL history
The first ever playoff game between Montreal and the Rangers is marked with some pretty infamous history as it is the first NHL game to ever go into fourth overtime.
Gus Rivers had scored one goal all season as a rookie for the Montreal Canadiens, and was primarily used as a substitute, rarely seeing any ice time, but he will go down as the player who scored the first ever goal in a fourth overtime.
What made this game particularly physically difficult, is that just two nights prior on March 26th, the Canadiens eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks in triple overtime to advance to the semi-finals.
Bear in mind this is before the days when teams rolled four lines. Instead the starting lineup played most of the game, supported by eight substitutes who could or could not ever see any ice time. That means that in the span of three days, the Canadiens starting five were playing an incredible 13th period of hockey. As a result it’s no surprise that Rivers found himself on the ice as the regular Canadiens were all utterly exhausted.
Rivers found himself in front of the net ahead of energy-depleted opposition, where he put the puck past Rangers goaltender John Ross Roach at 8:52 of the seventh period of hockey, assisted by Sylvio Mantha who topped the puck at him with desperation, and Aurel Joliat. Rivers was lifted on the shoulders of the exhausted Canadiens who carried him off the ice in triumph. This was the only goal for Rivers in these playoffs, but it was pivotal, as the Canadiens won the game 2-1 and went on to sweep the Rangers best-of-three series.
Remarkably, despite all the additional frames of hockey, the Canadiens never lost a single game during this playoff run, sweeping the Boston Bruins on their way to a third Stanley Cup, with the championship-winning goal being scored by Howie Morenz.
1956- Take out the goalie, take the series pt.1
Lorne “Gump” Worsley was a work horse for the New York Rangers in 1955-56, playing every minute of every game, so much so, that the team didn’t really have a reliable backup goaltender because they didn’t really need one.
Worsley played all 70 games for the Rangers, showing a remarkable save percentage of 0.922 in that time. However that workload ended up coming back to haunt the Rangers who were facing the mighty Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs.
To the team’s detriment, Worsley suffered a knee injury in the first game of the series, where he was shelled for seven goals on 44 shots. The Rangers had to recall career minor-leaguer Gordie Bell to help shoulder the burden for game two, where the Rangers pulled off “a miraculous” win against the Canadiens, with Bell stopping all but two of the 34 shots he faced at the Forum.
Despite the win Worsley was called back into duty for games three and four, but he could not stop the thunderous Canadiens, losing both games.
Bell was back in nets for game five for the Rangers, but the magic of game two was gone as the Rangers were pummeled 7-0 by the Canadiens, including two goals each for Doug Harvey, Henri Richard, and Dickie Moore, while Maurice Richard picked up five assists to finish the series with style.
1967- Geoffrion returns to Montreal as an adversary
Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion retired in 1964 as one of the greatest Montreal Canadiens of all-time, having played 766 regular season games and 129 playoff games over 14 seasons with the Habs, scoring at a point per game pace.
He decided to call it career in a “quit while you’re ahead” scenario feeling he had accomplished everything there was to accomplish in hockey having won the Calder, Hart, and Art Ross trophies, as well as six Stanley Cups.
The only thing that perhaps eluded Geoffrion was the captaincy of the Montreal Canadiens, a goal that he coveted quite a lot, and was quite close to achieving. In 1961 when Maurice Richard retired and Doug Harvey was traded to the Rangers, a vote was held by the players to name a new captain, and despite a close vote it was Jean Beliveau who edged out Geoffrion. When Geoffrion learned of the results he stormed out of the dressing room. Beliveau, feeling that Geoffrion was the rightful captain tried to return the letter to General Manager Frank Selke, but Selke refused. Geoffrion remained with the Canadiens for another three seasons, but his statistics took a turn for the worst, as if something was lost.
In 1966, Geoffrion was easily coaxed out of retirement by Rangers General Manager Emile Francis and returned to bolster a weak Rangers line-up. If Geoffrion had any problems re-igniting the passion that fueled him in Montreal, it was Canadiens head coach Toe Blake who served as flint, declaring that Geoffrion was too old to play. This galvanized Geoffrion as he dragged the Rangers to their best record in years, and their first playoff appearance in three seasons: “We can beat them if we just believe. We’re as good as any club in the League.”
When the two teams met in the first round, it was Geoffrion who opened the scoring three minutes into the second period on the way to the Rangers taking a commanding 4-1 lead midway through the third period, shocking the Forum crowd and sending Toe Blake panicking as he juggled his lines, an unheard of strategy at the time. The Canadiens responded with five unanswered goals in the final ten minutes, called one of the most spectacular comebacks in playoff history at that point.
After the game Geoffrion declared grumpily to the journalists gathered outside the Rangers dressing room “you can expect a long series. At least six games. Possibly seven. No sir, they will not beat us in four games.”
The Canadiens beat them in four games.
1979- Phantom goal that could have changed history
The Canadiens and the Rangers only met once with the Stanley Cup on the line, and it followed one of the most famous goals in Montreal Canadiens history, when the Bruins were called for too many men on the ice and Guy Lafleur beat Boston Bruins goaltender Gilles Gilbert in game 7 to tie the game and send it to overtime where Yvon Lambert sealed the deal.
The rested Rangers awaited the battered and bruised Canadiens, and the teams entered game four with the Canadiens up two games to one. A win by the Canadiens would give them a commanding lead in the series. A win by the Rangers and the series is tied. The game went into overtime and the pressure on both teams was clearly very high.
Right at the start of the extra frame, Canadiens defender Larry Robinson blasted the puck from the blueline so hard that the referee and the goal judge completely missed it going in and coming out of the net. The play continued amidst total confusion on the ice and in the stands of Madison Square Garden, as those with a good view knew that the puck was in, including several players on the ice, and an incensed Claude Ruel sitting in the stands behind the Montreal bench. The goal would not count and the game had to continue.
It was Canadiens head coach Scotty Bowman who expertly calmed down all his players at the whistle and got everyone back into focus in time for play to resume. It was a moment of pure leadership from the coach understanding that there was no point letting emotions get the better of them in this situation.
Eventually Serge Savard would score the winner a few minutes later, but history could have been so much crueler for arguably the greatest team in NHL history.
May 5th, 1986 - Patrick Roy silences Broadway
The lore of Patrick Roy’s unexpected ascent into greatness during the 1986 playoffs is known, but the specific details are perhaps not as clear. One of the most impressive performances during this run was a 44 save performance against the Rangers at Madison Square Gardens that stunned the 17,300 fans in attendance during game three of the semi-finals.
The Rangers directed 13 shots at Patrick Roy in an overtime period that was completely dominated by New York, but Roy made stunning save after stunning save. Montreal ended up winning the game halfway through overtime on a goal by another hero of the 1986 playoffs, Claude Lemieux.
2014- Take out the goalie, take the series pt.2
The most recent series between these two teams in the 2014 semi-finals was marred by an unfortunate injury to Canadiens starter Carey Price in game one, when Rangers forward Chris Krieder ran into him skates first in a crease collision, injuring Price’s knee in the process.
Price was unable to finish the game and backup goaltender Peter Budaj was called to action to play the third period. Budaj was shelled for three goals on eight shots in that one period, and confidence in the steady backup wavered.
The Canadiens decided to start their third string goaltender Dustin Tokarski on a hunch in game two, and that decision led to one of the more entertaining duels in the series that pitted Tokarski against Rangers forward Martin St. Louis in games three and four. St. Louis challenged Tokarski on three occasions, twice on point blank shots from the side of the goal and once on a breakaway. Tokarski managed two stunning saves before finally being beat by St. Louis in overtime of game four, in a back-breaking loss that put the Rangers up 3-1 in the series.
A complete list of all Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers series
Listen to Andrew weekly on TSN 690 Radio Sundays at 8:05am on Habs Breakfast, part of Weekend Game Plan.