The New York Rangers are a perfect 4-0-0 in outdoor games since they played in their first Winter Classic in 2012 against the Philadelphia Flyers. The NHL announced they would put their unbeaten streak to the test on Feb. 18, 2024, when they take on the New York Islanders at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey in the 2024 Stadium Series.
The 2024 Stadium Series will also feature the New Jersey Devils and Flyers on Feb. 17. The two-day event in East Rutherford, New Jersey, will be the hockey extravaganza the tri-state area has longed for since the Rangers, Devils, and Islanders squared off similarly back in 2014.
The Rangers and Islanders are bitter rivals, but over the past 15 meetings, the Rangers have gone 5-9-1 against their in-state foes, a bitter pill to swallow. Yet, the Blueshirts did win the two teams’ lone outdoor meeting by a score of 2-1. Fans get excited whenever the two teams meet, and the game’s temperature gets higher. This outdoor game will only increase that animosity.
With the Stadium Series looming, let’s revisit the Rangers’ victory over the Islanders at Yankees Stadium and the three other wins since 2012 while playing hockey the way nature intended.
2012 Winter Classic: Rangers vs. Flyers
The 2012 Winter Classic at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia was the NHL’s fifth edition of the event. Both teams came into that game playing great hockey, making everyone more excited about the clash.
And the game did not disappoint.
Both teams took some time to adjust to the new surroundings, playing a scoreless first period that was a strategic and entertaining chess match. Then the second period started, and the Flyers jumped on the Rangers, getting goals from Brayden Schenn and Claude Giroux and going up 2-0 with 5:39 remaining in the middle frame.
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Just 30 seconds later, Mike Rupp skated down the middle, got a pass, and fired home a wrist shot, celebrating with the ‘Jagr Salute’ while Jaromir Jagr sat and watched from the Flyers’ bench. He was the unexpected hero the Rangers needed, and he struck again just 2:41 into the third period.
Brad Richards got the go-ahead goal just shy of three minutes later, but the game’s highlight came with 19 seconds remaining. Every Winter Classic has its moment, and in 2012, that moment occurred after Ryan McDonagh was called for covering the puck in the crease, giving the Flyers’ Danny Briere a penalty shot with the clock dwindling.
As Briere rushed in and ripped a shot five-hole, Henrik Lundqvist calmly dropped down and made the save, essentially sealing the win for the Rangers. Lundqvist, who finished the game with 34 stops, had just had one of his signature moments on one of the NHL’s grander stages.
It was a memorable day and game and got the Rangers’ winning ways outdoors started.
2014 Stadium Series: Rangers vs. Devils
Just two years later, the Rangers found themselves back outside, playing the first of their two Stadium Series games against the Devils. Unlike 2012, this game wasted no time getting going, with Patrik Elias opening the scoring 5:36 into the first period. Dominic Moore tied it up for the Rangers, but Elias’s second of the game and a tally by Travis Zajac put the Rangers in a familiar situation.
Here they were in an outdoor game trailing by two goals. Then, the momentum changed at the end of the first when Marc Staal picked up a loose puck along the boards and harmlessly threw it toward the net. Somehow, it eluded Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur, and the Rangers ended the first down only by a goal.
With the momentum on their side, the Rangers exploded out of the gate in period two. Mats Zuccarello scored early on to tie it and then again 10 minutes later to take the lead. Carl Hagelin and Rick Nash also scored in the second, expanding the lead to 6-3. It was as if the goal flipped a switch, and now, this Rangers team was scoring at will.
Oddly enough, Derek Stepan got the seventh goal via a third-period penalty shot, finishing off his in a way Briere could not two years prior. It was another comeback win, this one finishing more comfortably than the last. And when the final buzzer sounded at Yankees Stadium, the Rangers celebrated their victory and prepared for their next battle, which took place three days later.
2014 Stadium Series: Rangers vs. Islanders
Skating back at the same venue they defeated the Devils three days prior, the Rangers battled their upcoming 2024 Stadium Series opponent, the Islanders. Following the same script again, the Rangers conceded the game’s first goal in the second period, as Brock Nelson found the back of the net.
Instead of the usual, “Let’s go down by two goals and come back,” Rangers forward Benoit Pouliot answered precisely 40 seconds later, tying the game at one in the final minute of the second period. As the game crept into the third, another unlikely hero scored the game-winner, as Daniel Carcillo fired home a rebound.
The Rangers won the game 2-1, sweeping the Stadium Series. Lundqvist stopped 30 of 31 Islanders’ shots en route to the win. Once again, the Rangers had found a way to respond after being down, a mantra of the team at the time and one we still see nine years later in 2023.
With these two franchises set to square off again 10 whole years after this first Stadium Series meeting, this game from Yankees Stadium will surely be fresh in everyone’s mind as Feb. 18 approaches.
2018 Winter Classic: Rangers vs. Sabres
The most recent outdoor game for the Blueshirts took place at Citi Field against the Buffalo Sabres. Although both were New York-based franchises, this wasn’t your expected rivalry for the Winter Classic. But when the two sides hit the ice and started to play, the records went out the window, and what we got was a great hockey game.
This time, the Rangers flipped the script. They scored the first two goals in the game, as Paul Carey and Michael Grabner each netted one in the first frame. Of course, just when you think the Rangers would coast to an easy victory, the Sabres started to creep back, scoring in the first minute of the second period and again in the first minute of the third.
Sam Reinhart scored the first goal, with Rasmus Ristolainen picking up the second. With 60 minutes complete and the Rangers’ last goal coming with 11:40 remaining in the first period, things looked bleak. Overtime started as a sense of nervousness took over Citi Field, and halfway through the frame, the Rangers would go on the power play.
As they worked the puck around on the four-on-three advantage, Kevin Shattenkirk blasted the puck off Robin Lehner’s pad, finding the stick of J.T. Miller, who deposited it into the net. Most of us remember Miller celebrating with the flames shooting up behind the boards, one of the more fantastic scenes I have seen at an NHL game.
It was the Rangers’ fourth outdoor game and fourth outdoor win. Each game presented a unique style of victory, and in none did the Rangers lead from start to finish. That’s just the way these outdoor games work. They are unpredictable.
Fast forward to now, and we are looking forward to the Stadium Series and the Rangers’ first outdoor game in six years. No one can guess who will be the hero that night or how the game will unfold, but the one thing we know is the Rangers will enter MetLife Stadium as the outdoor kings, looking to reclaim their throne.