An incredible start for Rod Gilbert
What Happened October 8 in New York Ranger History
On that date in 1976, the New York Rangers were playing their first game in Colorado state, beating the Colorado Rockies 5-3. It was the second game of the new season for the Rangers, coming two days after a 6-5 victory over the Minnesota North Stars.
In Game 1, Rangers right winger Rod Gilbert had three assists but did even better in Game 2. He tied a franchise record with five assists as he got an assist on Rangers’ five goals. That’s not all.
No Ranger had ever totaled eight points in the first two games of the season, and no NHL player had ever collected eight assists in the first two games. These two records are still valid, even if they are tied.
The eight-point record was tied by Mika Zibanejad in 2019, but the eight assists are still a franchise and NHL record. In fact, only one other player has managed to duplicate this feat in NHL history. John Cullen of the Pittsburgh Penguins collected eight assists in his first two games of the 1990-91 season.
With 406 career goals, Gilbert is best known as the top scorer in Blueshirts history, but he was no slouch when it came to scoring goals as he sits second with 615 assists. , behind only Brian Leetch.
The beginnings of Henrik Lundqvist
On that date in 2005, a 23-year-old Swedish rookie goaltender named Henrik Lundqvist made his first start for the Rangers, losing 3-2 in overtime to the New Jersey Devils at Continental Airlines Arena. It was Rangers’ third game of the season and Lundqvist made 24 saves while ceding the game-winning goal to Brian Rafalski 3:17 in overtime.
Kevin Weekes started the season as the number one goalie and was back in goal the next game, a 3-2 loss to Washington. Then it was Lundqvist’s turn and he took off, starting eight of the next nine and going 5-3-1 while allowing just 15 goals in those eight starts.
Weekes and Lundqvist continued to share goalkeeper duties until the end of December, when Lundqvist was named top goalkeeper. The highlight of the season for Lundqvist was leading Sweden to a gold medal at the 2006 Olympics.
Lundqvist was not exactly an unknown for the 2005-06 season. In 2002-03 with Frölunda in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), he set records for lowest goals against average (GAA) of 1.45 and best save percentage (Sv%) of 0.948 . The previous season, he led the SHL with an average of 1.79, .936 Sv%, six shutouts while going 33-8-3 and winning the league championship.
2005-06 was the only season in his Ranger career that he didn’t start opening night with an 8-5-1 record for the next 14 years.
Playing a team for the first time… .two times
We mentioned that in 1976 the Rangers played their first game in Colorado, playing and beating the Rockies for the first time since the team moved from Kansas City after two seasons as Boy Scouts.
Fast forward six years and it’s 1982 and on that date the Rangers faced the New Jersey Devils for the first time, at Brendan Byrne Arena. The Devils had moved from Colorado this season, so the Rangers had the distinction of making their debut against the same franchise twice on the same day, six years apart.
Things didn’t go as well against the Devils as they did in Denver as New Jersey won their first game with their new name. Merlin Malinowski scored a power-play goal at 17:06 of the third period to break a 2-2 tie and seal the Devils victory. Former Islander Glenn “Chico” Resch was in goal for New Jersey.
Who scored the Rangers’ first goal against the New Jersey Devils? It was Anders Hedberg on assists from Olympians Rob McClanahan and Bill Baker. It was an unpleasant game, a harbinger of things to come as the teams were scrapped 92 minutes in combined penalties, including match misconduct against Dave and Don Maloney in the third period scrum with Dave Hutchison .
16 NHL players were born on October 8, including a former Ranger.
Stratton Art was born on that date in 1935 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was a forward who played 18 games for the Rangers during the 1959-60 season. His NHL career spanned 95 games over four seasons from 1959 to 1968. Stratton, who traveled widely, played for 21 teams in various leagues during a hockey career that spanned 23 years.