The New York Rangers have produced a lot of memorable moments for fans over the last decade. Whether it be during the regular season or postseason, there have been situations that will be enshrined in our brains for a lifetime. Looking back at the top five goals of the past 10 seasons, they all have one thing in common – the playoffs.
It’s been a long four years since the Rangers last played a postseason game. Since 2017, when they lost in six games to the Ottawa Senators, the Rangers have undergone a rebuild that has kept them out of postseason contention, except for a quick qualifying round exit in 2020. With renewed hope that the team will earn a postseason berth in 2021-22, I felt it was time to relive some of the highlights of the past decade.
There have been plenty of highs and several lows in the past 10 seasons, but throughout the Rangers consistently provided fans with memorable moments. Disappointment is associated with playoff runs from 2012-2017 that ended without the Stanley Cup. But sometimes, it does us good to step back and appreciate how memorable some of those games were. If you were fortunate enough to witness those runs, I am sure you can point to one game, goal, or save that has stuck with you over the years.
For this countdown, I will focus on the top five goals from the past 10 seasons. There were many viable candidates, but I valued importance, impact, and emotion. Here they are.
Number 5: Martin St. Louis on Mother’s Day
This goal didn’t clinch a series, win it in overtime, or scathe off elimination, but it may be the most emotional goal of the bunch. Martin St. Louis tragically lost his mother during the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2014. At the time, the Rangers had their back against the wall, down 3-1 in the series heading into Game 5 in Pittsburgh against the Penguins. St. Louis suited up for the game, and the Blueshirts rallied around him to win 5-1.
As emotional as that victory was, none of us were ready for what happened in Game 6. Just 3:34 into the game, a Derek Stepan shot deflected off of St. Louis’ shinpad and in to put the Rangers up 1-0. The crowd at Madison Square Garden went wild as St. Louis slapped his stick against boards and awaited his teammates, who rushed over to celebrate. The date was May 11, 2014, and it was Mother’s Day.
It was a beautiful moment, and St. Louis scooped up the puck and brought it back to the bench for safekeeping. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had admirably offered his condolences before Game 5, a sign that St. Louis’ loss hit home for everyone, and to be able to play on Mother’s Day and score a goal in honor of his mother, France, was magical.
Number 4: Ryan McDonagh Wins Game 5 in Overtime
Trailing 3-1 in their second-round series against the Washington Capitals in 2015, the Rangers were down 1-0 with just under two minutes to play. The now longest-tenured Ranger, Chris Kreider, snuck a shot past Braden Holtby with 1:41 to go after a Stepan drop-pass, and when I say the place went bananas, I’m not exaggerating. Although this goal could easily have made the list, it was the game-winner that takes the fourth spot on the countdown.
Captain Ryan McDonagh was the beneficiary of a beautiful defensive play by Jesper Fast and an even better set-up by D Stepan. (Side note – Stepan’s name will come up a lot in this piece.) I can still remember the jubilation at MSG, the crowd roaring as the captain kept the Blueshirts’ postseason hopes alive.
Chills. From being within two minutes of elimination to creating a lasting memory, Rangers fans will never forget McDonagh’s tally. What a play, what a sequence, what a goal.
Number 3: Dominic Moore Sends the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final
Arguably the most important goal in recent history came from the unlikeliest source: Dominic Moore. Moore was a fan favorite, hardnosed player who did all the little things needed for his team. Players like him are essential to playoff success, and he epitomized the importance of depth forwards during their 2014 run.
The Rangers earned their trip to the Stanley Cup Final courtesy of a 1-0 win. Sure goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stole the show with a remarkable blocker save on Thomas Vanek which led to the lone tally in Game 6. Moore finished off a feed from Brian Boyle late in the second period, pushing the Rangers to the brink of their first Final appearance since 1994.
That season, the Rangers were known for their poise on the forecheck, exemplified by Derek Dorsett’s puck retrieval here. It was a beautiful feed by Boyle and a great finish by Moore that would stand as the game-winner. It may not have been the flashiest goal, but the importance of this game-breaker solidified its spot on the countdown.
Number 2: Martin St. Louis Downs Montreal in Overtime
St. Louis makes his second appearance on this list. He was a trade deadline acquisition who left his mark on the Rangers’ postseason run, most notably in Game 4 against the Montreal Canadiens. With the Rangers trying to take a commanding 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final, the game went into overtime, when St. Louis took a pass from Carl Hagelin and rip a shot top-shelf over goaltender Dustin Tokarski.
It was a perfect shot and the perfect way to end the game. Hagelin’s pass gave St. Louis so much space, and the anticipation built throughout the crowd before they erupted as the puck kissed the crossbar and dropped in.
In a 2014 run littered with great moments, this goal by St. Louis was the highlight. He got his chance to win it and didn’t miss, sending a sold-out MSG crowd home smiling, knowing a chance at the Stanley Cup was on the horizon.
Number 1: Derek Stepan Completes the Comeback
The most memorable goal of the last decade, and perhaps one of the most iconic goals in Rangers history, was Stepan’s series-winning goal in 2015. Down 3-1 in the series, the Rangers scathe off elimination with McDonagh’s OT winner, highlighted earlier. But it was this goal by Stepan that capped off one of the most magnificent comebacks in recent memory.
Say it with me: “Drive by Girardi, and a save, rebound, score! It’s Stepan in overtime, and the Rangers move on to Tampa!” Rangers fans can recite Doc Emrick’s entire iconic call. Even more magnificent is the extended version when Doc basically says it’s a shame someone has to lose this one right before the game-winning sequence.
Stepan’s raw emotion as he starts waving his hands and stick while stumbling backward into the waiting arms of the Garden crowd is entrenched in my memory. It was ecstasy for the Rangers organization and their faithful fans. From two minutes away from elimination to their second consecutive Eastern Conference Final. At that moment, all was good, and again, Stepan played a pivotal role in a massive goal.
Agree with this list? What is your favorite goal of the last decade? Let me know in the comments below!
Brendan Azoff is a THW contributor and podcast host dedicated to covering the New York Rangers. His passion for hockey started when he first laced up the skates at three, growing into his love for writing and talking about the greatest sport in the world. His podcast, The Backcheck, breaks down the Rangers, Islanders, and NHL news and can be found on The Hockey Writers Podcast Network and Belly Up Sports. Brendan has been writing about the Rangers and the NHL for over two years, with his content also found on Puck Prose, Blue Line Station, and E2G Sports. If you want to connect with Brendan and stay up-to-date on his posts, follow him on Twitter. He is always available for content ideas and interviews, don’t be afraid to ask!