Flashback: The greatest Rangers game ever played at the Nassau Coliseum

Zubov scored one of the greatest goals in the NYR / NYI rivalry

Zubov scored one of the greatest goals in the NYR / NYI rivalry

The Rangers and Islanders are a bitter rival. I recently went to the renovated Nassau Coliseum and recalled one of the greatest Rangers games I’ve ever seen.

As per Evan Sporer on NHL.com, the Coliseum opened in 1972, and has hosted 125 Rangers/Islanders classics. The Isles are 65-48-4 with eight ties, and the Blueshirts 52-63-2 with eight ties

Cloutier fights Salo, kind of (Roca/NYDN 1998)

Cloutier fights Salo, kind of (Roca/NYDN 1998)

Each individual Ranger fan will have their own opinion of which game was the greatest Blueshirt win at the Coliseum. Some may not even care if the Rangers won, maybe it was just a special game to be at or something memorable happened.

For younger fans, it could be the 2016, 6-5 come from behind victory. Or maybe it was the Dan Cloutier game in 1998? That was when Rangers’ goalie Dan Cloutier pummeled Tommy Salo then went over the Islanders bench and taunted them to come get him.

Older fans may remark a game from the late 70’s or early 80’s, but those were some lean times for the Rangers as the Islanders had built a dynasty that would capture 4 straight Cups and 5 straight Final appearances.

For me, the greatest Rangers/Islanders game at the Nassau Coliseum came in 1994. The Rangers were dealing with the “Curse of 1940″ and the Islanders had just come off a trip to the Eastern Conference Final the year before. Yes, the Rangers were looking like a team of destiny as they were steamrolling teams to the President’s Trophy. However, they needed to do something they hadn’t done in nearly 5 years. The Blueshirts had to win a game at the Nassau Coliseum.

March 5th, 1994 was a crucial game in that Championship season. If they didn’t break the Coliseum Hex, would they have beaten the Isles in the 1st round? In that game the Isles were flying and Richter was pulled early in the second, replaced by Healy. The former Islander did not fair better and was quickly yanked by Keenan in favor of Richter. It was crazy to say the least, as the Rangers had to make a few comebacks to get it tied at 4.

Stan Fischler wrote:

As for wounds, Healy soon would suffer hurt feelings after erroneously wandering from the net to clear a loose puck. Healy missed, Benoit Hogue followed up and scored. Furious, Keenan signaled Healy to return to the Rangers bench.  After just a little more than 11minutes of the game, the Rangers coach had seen enough of Healy and unceremoniously gave his back-up the hook. Glenn hardly kept his displeasure to himself and when he reached the bench the coach and goalie exchanged words. 

Keenan: “There was no discussion whatsoever. Glenn asked if he was coming out because of the mistake he made and I didn’t say one word.”

Healy: “I offered just a kind ‘hello’ to Mike! I don’t play for my coach; I play for myself and my teammates.”

The drama at this point was already as high as the stakes. Late in the third period and I remember it vividly, Sergei Zubov would take a shot that smashed the jinx. The young Russian blueliner was just inside the zone when he reared back and let one fly. The blast was like a rocket that beat Ron Hextall for a 5-4 victory. The sight of Zubov dropping to his knees and looking to the heavens while celebrating still gives me chills.


It was glorious and one of the best feelings I ever had watching a Rangers/Islanders game. The moment that Zubov scored left such a lasting impression on me that whenever these two teams play, that is number one in my mental highlight reel.


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  • I think even despite the outcome the greatest Rangers game at the Colosseum was the heartbreaking game 5 loss to the Isles. Yes they lost, it was crushing and growing up on Long Island during that time was a dark period for Ranger fans. Yet that game the Rangers took the best team in hockey to the brink of elimination during their heyday. To come from behind against a team that hadn’t lost a playoff series since the Rangers best them in 79 was a statement in itself. That Ranger squad took everything the Isles gave them and kept coming. They were within inches of upsetting them on the road and in the belly of the beast. As a kid I remember my uncles house, other than my dad and I filled with Islander fans go eerily quite when Maloney’s controversial game tying goal counted. And the gasps with each Ranger chance in overtime. Unfortunately 8 minutes and 56 seconds into the 2nd ot, Kenny Morrow of all people ended the Rangers dreams of an upset beating Glen Hanlon. The Rangers played their hearts out and didn’t leave an ounce of energy anywhere but on the ice. Billy Smith who NEVER shook hands with the opposing team actually sought out Glen Hanlon who stood on his head and probably played the game of his life and hugged him in a sign of respect.

    The Rangers were underdogs in every aspect of this series yet in 1984 they stood up to the Isles to the last second of the series. I know fans find it hard to list a game that crushed the hearts of every Ranger player, fan and anyone involved within the organization but to see a team devoid of their captain, devoid of any stars and facing one of the greatest dynasties in sports and hang with them in every aspect of that series left me feeling very proud that night despite the heartache. That night solidified my passion with this team. In my mind there’s will never be another game between these two proud fan based that meant as much as it did. To me that’s why the 1984 Patrick Division Semi-Finals Game 5 will always be the greatest game between the Rangers and Isles at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

  • Mike that’s the first game I thought of too. What ya game. Don’t forget how we went into OT now. With 23 seconds left in the 3rd period Don Malhony taps the puck down and into the net on a play that was discussed I believe to see if it was a high stick. Years later Don said it was a high stick but it counted that night. Then Mikko fanning on the puck right in front of the net in OT. Some game man.

  • Was at all 5 games. Never should have been best of five, and that 2-3-2 screwed and not going home ice vs Habs with 20 less points screwed New York out of cup #5 along with playing practically every day in first two rounds. Hanlon played his heart out but it was a high stick. Flatley destroying Beck and Bossy’s goal in final seconds of first period was huge. Was wild how big the Islander fan base was in NYC then, was like a home game when they came back in game four. Rangers in their history never won a playoff overtime game vs New York but always found it funny their fans ignored the 1990 playoff win there in game four so it was not a 19 game streak that ended with pathetic Hextall who handed them that sweep, and then took it back the next year by doing the sweeping with Flyers.

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