Stephane Matteau’s Game 7 double-overtime wraparound that pushed the Rangers past the Devils in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals and on to the Stanley Cup Final, is no doubt the most memorable goal in the Blueshirts’ history.
But Matteau’s goal (on May 27, 1994) didn’t actually win the Cup for the Rangers, of course. They still had to survive another seven-game series, against the Vancouver Canucks, to raise the Cup for the first time in 54 years.
On the other hand, Bryan Hextall’s overtime goal on April 13, 1940, gave the Rangers their third Stanley Cup – and their last before that ’94 title. And Hextall’s goal had come on the road, in Toronto, after the Rangers erased a 2-0 deficit on third-period goals by Neil Colville and Alf Pike.
“Nothing beats a Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime, if you’re really going to break it down,’’ said broadcaster Howie Rose, who called the winning goal (“Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!’’).
But Hextall’s goal was 80 years ago. How many people alive today remember where they were when it happened? Plus winning the Stanley Cup wasn’t a foreign thing to Rangers fans then; the 1940 title was the team’s third in its 14 years of existence.
“So [winning the Cup] was not a novelty,’’ Rose said.
A half-century later, winning a Stanley Cup meant everything to Blueshirts fans, which is why Matteau’s iconic series-winner in 1994 is our pick for the Rangers’ No. 1 goal of all time. Hextall’s was No. 2.
Here are the rest of the Top 10 Rangers goals.
3. May 25, 1994: Mark Messier
Mark Messier’s second goal in the 4-2 win over the Devils in Game 6 of that ’94 series. The Devils had won Games 1 and 5 in Madison Square Garden, and led the series, three games to two, with a chance to close out their rivals at home in the Meadowlands.
Messier, the Rangers’ captain, had guaranteed victory in Game 6, but the Blueshirts trailed 2-0, before Alex Kovalev’s goal late in the second period got them on the board. Messier scored three goals in the third, the second of which, at 12:12 of the period, was the eventual game-winner.
4. June 14, 1994: Mark Messier
Messier was credited with what would be the game- and series-winning goal on a power play at 13:29 of the second period. It put the Rangers up, 3-1, and while Trevor Linden’s second goal in the game pulled the Canucks within 3-2, the Rangers held on to win their first Cup in 54 years.
5. April 14, 1928: Frank Boucher
The second of Frank Boucher’s two goals, at 15:16 of the third period, was the winner in the 2-1, Game 5 triumph over the Montreal Maroons that gave the Rangers their first Stanley Cup, in only their second year of existence.
6. May 5, 1979: Anders Hedberg
Anders Hedberg’s game-winner with 2:13 left in Game 5 at Nassau Coliseum turned the tide in the 1979 semifinals against the Islanders. The Isles had the best record in the league in 1978-79, but Hedberg’s goal gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead in the series, and they won at home in Game 6 to advance to the Stanley Cup Final against Montreal.
7. April 15, 1971: Bob Nevin
Bob Nevin’s OT goal against Toronto gave the Rangers their first playoff series win in 21 years, since their appearance in the 1950 Stanley Cup Final.
8. May 11, 2014: Martin St. Louis
On Mother’s Day, days after his mother died suddenly of a heart attack, Martin St. Louis scored the first goal of Game 6 of the Rangers’ second-round series against Pittsburgh at the Garden. The Rangers, who had trailed, 3-1 in the series, won the game, 3-1, then won Game 7 in Pittsburgh, with St. Louis assisting on Brad Richards’ series-winning goal. The Rangers went on to beat Montreal in the next round to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years.
9. April 29, 1971: Pete Stemkowski
Though they ultimately lost the series in seven games, Pete Stemkowski’s triple-overtime goal in Game 6 of the 1971 semifinals against the Chicago Blackhawks served notice that, after decades as a league also-ran, the Rangers were now a force to be reckoned with. They would reach the Stanley Cup Final the next year, the first time in 22 seasons.
10. April 2, 1972: Vic Hadfield
On the final day of the season, the second of Vic Hadfield’s two goals made him the first Rangers player to score 50 in a single season.
Honorable mention: Marek Malik’s between-the-legs, 15th round, shootout winner against Washington on Nov. 26, 2005, was in our original Top 10. But Rose hates the shootout, and lobbied for its removal.