J.T. Miller is only second player on Rangers current roster to get first NHL goal against the Islanders

J.T. Miller of the Rangers, left, is congratulated J.T. Miller of the Rangers, left, is congratulated on his second goal of the game and career by Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal. (Feb. 7, 2013) Photo Credit: David Pokress

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Steve Zipay Newsday columnist Steve Zipay

Steve Zipay is an award-winning journalist who has covered events from Super Bowls to World Series and issues ...

When 19-year-old rookie J.T. Miller scored in his Madison Square Garden debut against the Islanders on Thursday, it was a rarity for this group of Rangers. Miller is only the second player on the current roster who posted his first NHL goal against the Nassau rivals.

Surprisingly, five of them have scored their first NHL regular-season goal against Martin Brodeur, the Devils' future Hall of Famer.

"There's a few of us," said North Bellmore native Matt Gilroy, who beat Brodeur for his first with a slap shot from the right side for the game-winner Oct. 15, 2009. "From Vinny Prospal," he said, referring to the pass from the former winger now in Columbus.

Like other teams, the Rangers attach the puck to a plaque to commemorate the occasion, and Gilroy said, "It's with my parents somewhere."

Defensemen Marc Staal, with a winner at 4:13 of the third period Nov. 14, 2007, in New Jersey, and Ryan McDonagh, on April 9, 2011, also bested Brodeur, as did rookie Chris Kreider on Tuesday in Newark for his first regular-season goal. (Kreider did have five playoff goals last spring.)

However it occurs, first goals -- and the surroundings -- are memorable.

Brian Boyle put his first goal past Brodeur while making his debut for the Los Angeles Kings. "Feb. 28, 2008, in New Jersey, second period," he recalled. "I was driving down and I was late for the game, got there 12 minutes into the first. The assists were from Joe Giuliano and Brad Stuart. Joe also went to BC [Boston College], great guy, plays in the German league now. He retrieved the puck. It's on a shelf at my parents' house with all the [college] degrees from my brothers and sisters. Then I scored the next game against the Rangers."

Five other current players scored their first goal as Rangers: Michael Del Zotto, Oct. 3, 2009, against Ottawa; Ryan Callahan, March 17, 2006, against Boston; Dan Girardi, Oct. 18, 2007, against Atlanta; Derek Stepan, Nov. 24, 2010, against Tampa Bay, and Carl Hagelin, Nov. 26, 2011, against Philadelphia.

Darroll Powe, who was acquired in the Mike Rupp trade with Phoenix, is the only other current Ranger who scored his first against the Islanders. "Yann Denis was in net," he said the other day. "It was 2008 [Dec. 9] with the Flyers. I had played a few games, got hurt, it was one of my first games back. A shot from Mike Richards; far pad, rebound, I came in, kind of an empty net. Pretty cool. I think it was Richie who retrieved the puck. It's back home at my house in Ontario."

 

First goals, rest of current Rangers

Arron Asham, with Montreal, Dec. 29, 1999, against Ottawa

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Jeff Halpern, with Washington, Oct. 19, 1999, against Anaheim

Marian Gaborik with Minnesota, Oct. 6, 2000, against Anaheim*

Brad Richards, with Lightning, Oct. 8, 2000, against Vancouver

Taylor Pyatt, with Islanders, Nov. 27, 2000, against Tampa Bay

Rick Nash, with Columbus, Oct. 10, 2002, against Chicago**

Steve Eminger, with Washington, Oct. 10, 2005, against Rangers' Kevin Weekes

Anton Stralman, with Toronto, March 21, 2007, against Buffalo

*First NHL game, and first goal in Wild history

**First NHL game

 

HEARD AROUND

Fans should know soon whether the AHL's Connecticut Whale, the Rangers' franchise based in Hartford since 1997, will remain there. The team's lease at XL Center expires at the end of the season, and last week, Global Spectrum, owned by Comcast of Philadelphia, was awarded a 10-year contract to run the arena and has until March 1 to secure an AHL team. Two weeks ago, the Rangers were said to be keeping their options open . . . Asked which stat was more important to him, goals-against average or save percentage, veteran goaltender Martin Biron responded: "Whichever's better than the other that year. If I'm below three in goals-against, that's it. Above 90 in save percentage? I'll say that. There was one year I was 12 and 4, [2006-07 with Buffalo], so that year I said wins is the most important." . . . The Broadway Hat, a black fedora brought back from Europe last season and awarded to the game MVP after each win, was beat up and retired, and replaced by one from Hugo Boss. But that went missing after the first game. The one J.T. Miller wore Thursday was a replacement Giorgio Armani that the team earlier had borrowed from Garden executive chairman James Dolan. It now has its own traveling case.

 

STAT PACK

As of yesterday morning, the Rangers were one of seven teams that hadn't been in a shootout . . . They have scored 11 third-period goals; only five teams have more . . . No Ranger is in the top 40 in points. Marian Gaborik (6-3) and Brad Richards (2-7) lead the team with nine.

 

UP NEXT

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The Blueshirts play in Boston Tuesday and host the Isles on Thursday and the Capitals next Sunday.

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