NYR Top Post-Lockout Moments #10-6...

First off, how about that USA-Canada game last night! It was great seeing Chris Drury score a clutch goal again. If there's a God in Heaven, it will be a USA-Sweden Gold Medal Game.

And now, on with the countdown...

10) Rangers Win First Game After the Lockout
Philadelphia - October 5, 2005
I remember how excited I was the first time I was in MSG for a while. It was a Dane Cook comedy show in September of 2005, and even though it wasn’t technically at the Garden (it was at the Theatre at the Garden), it still smelled like hockey in those hallways. (I have since stopped listening to Dane Cook.)

Imagine how excited I was for the first Rangers game since Bobby Holik scored an overtime winner in Washington in April 2004 (Jamie McLennan was the winning goalie; yes, he was a Ranger, for 4 games).

And can you even fathom how great it felt when the Rangers took a lead on a goal by Jason Strudwick?! Who? It didn’t even matter!

Of course, then the rails came off, and the Flyers scored 3 unanswered goals to take a 3-1 lead (A fellow named Jamie Lundmark - remember him? - scored to make it 3-2 before the 2nd intermission). I remember getting incredibly angry and screaming about how this was the “same old Rangers” and how Jaromir Jagr was “just another washed up player.”

Okay, I never said that about Jagr (I did say the first part, though), and it’s a good thing I didn’t, because he took over in the 3rd, scoring two power play goals to go with his assist on the Strudwick goal. Marcel Hossa sealed the deal for the Rangers 33 seconds after Jagr’s 2nd goal.

I was on Cloud Nine after this game. Hossa scored, Strudwick scored, Ryan Hollweg had an assist. All of these people came out of nowhere, and I knew, just knew, that Hossa and Hollweg would be offensive dynamos for the rest of the year.

Sure, they weren’t, but Hollweg played good for his rookie year, Jed Ortmeyer worked his heart off, Dominic Moore had a great rookie campaign while playing in every game, Henrik Lundqvist was a phenomenal discovery, Jaromir Jagr broke the Rangers points and goals record, and Martin Straka was great. It was a dream season for the Rangers.

And it all started here, on a chilly October night in Philadelphia.

9) Shanahan Fights Brashear
MSG - December 30, 2006
The Rangers had lost 7 in a row, starting with a 9-2 beating in Toronto and a 6-1 loss at home to the Devils and culminating in being shutout twice in a row against the Islanders and Ottawa. They went from 18-10-4 to 18-17-4 and were in a pretty bad jam. When they could score goals, they let in too many. When Henrik Lundqvist was hot, the offense couldn’t put one in.

Leave it to Brendan Shanahan to be the sparkplug. In his first season with the Rangers, he took exception to Donald Brashear making runs at Jagr all night long. He challenged him to a fight at center ice, dropped his gloves, and put some fists on his big bald head.

Maybe he didn’t win the fight - because Brashear pulled his jersey over his head and brought him down - but Shanahan, “a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” as Joe Micheletti said, revved up his team and the crowd, and the Rangers won 4-1, the first win of 4 straight.

What did Brashear do in response to getting called out by a player with actual skill? Skated by Aaron Ward and sucker-punched him in the mouth and the helmet.

What did the Rangers do in response? Waited for Brashear to injure unsung hero Blair Betts, then signed him to a huge contract, realized he was awful, and sent him to the minors.

8) Shootout Against Washington
MSG - November 26, 2005
What do Michael Nylander, Ville Nieminen, Jason Strudwick, and Marek Malik have in common? Besides short careers with the Rangers, they all scored goals in a 15-round shootout.

The Rangers shot last, meaning that all three times the Capitals scored, the Rangers happened to score also, which is a pretty crazy feat in itself. Olaf Kolzig was particularly good on this night, both in the game and the tiebreaker, as he always played great against the Rangers.

My personal favorite goal from this was Strudwick’s wicked wrister. The Rangers had to think their chances were slim when Bryan Muir put one past Lundqvist, and then Tom Renney puts Strudwick out. He skated down with speed and ripped one right by Kolzig, who wasn’t expecting such a hard shot. I always loved Jason Strudwick and seeing him save the day was incredible. He started pounding the glass and then throwing his arms up to rile the crowd.

Of course, when Malik put the puck in, his reaction was the extreme opposite of Strudwick’s. He acted like a 50-goal scorer instead of a 6’6” defenseman who scored 8 goals in 3 years as a Ranger (6 regular season, 1 shootout, 1 playoff).

You know what happened. Matt Bradley missed his shot for Washington. Malik - goalless the whole year so far - took the puck at center ice, goes left, cuts right, puts the stick and puck between his legs, waits for Kolzig to drop, and put it home - from between his legs.

I can watch this goal over and over and never get sick of it. I still don’t entirely know how Malik did this. Marek Malik!

Said John Davidson, “I’ve seen it all.”

7) Jed Ortmeyer's Penalty Shot
MSG - January 13, 2007
Jed Ortmeyer was lucky to be alive - much less still playing in the NHL - after suffering a pulmonary embolism in the summer of 2006. In fact, he missed 40 games to start the season, and in his 5th game (a 6-4 loss to Ottawa on January 11) he notched 2 assists and got a standing ovation on both of them.

The next game, his 6th game back, was a game against Boston. The Rangers were up 2-1 late in the 3rd period when Tomas Pock took a high-sticking penalty. Ortmeyer, one of the best penalty-killers on a great penalty-killing team, broke free and had a short-handed breakaway until he was dragged down by Patrice Bergeron.

The ref pointed to center ice and Ortmeyer skated to the bench. Jaromir Jagr wondered if they could decline the penalty shot and play 4-on-4. Ryan Hollweg (who had 0 points so far in the season) told him to shoot high on Tim Thomas. Ortmeyer said in the post-game interviews that Hollweg probably saw that on SportsCenter.

With the Garden on their feet, Ortmeyer went straight down the ice, faked a shot by kicking his left leg out, waited for Thomas to go down, went to the right and put the puck into the net.

If anyone ever deserved a highlight-reel goal like that, it was Jed Ortmeyer, who played his heart and soul out every single game.

6) Leetch Returns to MSG
MSG - March 20, 2006
Brian Leetch's last game at Madison Square Garden was March 2, 2004, in a loss to Atlanta. Since then, he was traded to Toronto and signed by Boston.

The Boston Bruins' first visit to the Garden was 4 months earlier, on November 20, 2005, but Leetch didn't play because of a strained knee that kept him out for a while.

The inevitable day finally came in late March, and the Garden greeted him with a video celebrating his time as a Ranger - a Stanley Cup, a Conn Smythe Award, a 102 point season, 1,129 games in blue, 82 playoff games, franchise records for goals, assists, and points by a defenseman, and a goal in Game 7.

Leetch was "in a fog," according to him the entire night. At random points in the game, fans would chant "Bri-an Leetch, Bri-an Leetch" (including me). He was visibly affected by the reaction to him in what was his only game at MSG not in a Rangers jersey (besides the 1994 All-Star Game...).

Besides Leetch's return, it was a great game, with the Rangers jumping out to a 3-0 2nd period lead that caused Boston to use their timeout. The fans even cheered the fact that Boston was forced to use its timeout early. The Bruins wound up scoring 2 goals, but the Rangers won 5-2.

The only bad part of the night was realizing that Leetch would never again be part of a good Rangers team. As it was, the Rangers improved to 39-19-10 that night while the Bruins fell to 4 games under .500.

(The last 26 seconds of the game.)