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The Top 10 Rangers Moments from the 2014-2015 Season, Part 2

derek stepan goal celebration 5-13

The top five moments of the Rangers season are here. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

It’s time for the top 5 moments of the Rangers’ season! This contains some of the most action packed games, amazing comebacks, overtime winners and NHL firsts.

What do you think of the list? Is there a game or a moment that you think should be on the list? Let me know in the comments section, on Twitter (@The_RangerZone), or on The Ranger Zone Facebook page.

If you missed yesterday’s article, which contains #6-10, then you can read that HERE.
5) Kevin Hayes’ first NHL Goal vs Sharks, 10/19/14

This may be a surprising pick for number 5 on the list, but this marked the start of what looks to be a special career for a promising youngster on the Rangers squad. Having made the team after preseason, and debuting at the Rangers home opener, some people weren’t sure if he was ready to be an NHL player. He was timid, unwilling to break out for offensive rushes, and very focused on playing in his own end. But you could see glimpses of his immense amount of skill. He scored quite a few highlight goals throughout the season, like his end to end goal against the Avalanche, his breakaway goal against the Penguins, and the midair backhander against the Capitals. But this was the most special one because it was the first.

I was at this game, a Sunday evening game against the San Jose Sharks. It was exciting already, with a goal from Carl Hagelin to kick it off, a goal line clear from Matt Hunwick, and goals just four seconds apart from Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash. But the best moment of the nigh came later in the third period, when Kevin Hayes collected a rebound, went around the net, and fired the puck top shelf for his first career NHL goal.

He would go on to score 16 more, and finish with 45 points in his outstanding rookie season. This game and this goal was just a taste of what he could do. It was really special watching him grow as a player throughout the year, and eventually going on to score the overtime winner in Game 4 against the Penguins, and the tying goal in Game 7 against the Capitals.

I’ve seen a few first NHL goals from Rangers over the years, and they’ve all turned out to be pretty good players. I was at the game where Ryan McDonagh scored his first goal against the Devils, Hayes’ goal, and Jesper Fast’s first NHL goal against the Flyers. Hopefully the trend continues.

4) Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 vs Tampa Bay Lightning

Facing elimination after a shutout loss in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers entered Tampa Bay with their backs against the wall. They needed a win in order to keep their season alive, and their top players needed to perform better. And that is exactly what happened.

With Alain Vigneault still looking to find a player to replace Mats Zuccarello effectively, he promoted JT Miller to the top line alongside Rick Nash and Derick Brassard. The entire team played well, but the top line truly dominated that game.

It wasn’t their best game of the playoffs, but it was certainly the best offensive showing for the Rangers in the postseason. Lundqvist made 15 first period saves, including a gorgeous pad save to rob Stamkos and keep the Rangers in the game. James Sheppard, a fourth liner, scored his first goal of the playoffs. Keith Yandle, who played his best series against the Lightning, scored his second goal of the postseason. But the top line had their way with Tampa.

Rick Nash, JT Miller and Derick Brassard flat out dominated this game. Both Nash and Miller had the best playoff performance of their careers, with each of them recording a four point (1-3-4) night. Miller scored his first career playoff goal after coming extremely close on multiple occasions. Derick Brassard had the best offensive playoff game from a Ranger in years, scoring his first career hat trick, and adding two assists for a massive five point night. The win gave the Rangers some confidence, and a shot at glory in Game 7 at the Garden.

3) Rangers comeback vs Minnesota Wild, 10/27/14

If you wanted someone to become a hockey fan, and a Rangers fan, this is the game that you would show them.

This was one of the most exciting, nerve-wracking, amazing games that the Rangers have been in for quite some time. Early on, it was probably the most depressing game to watch as a Rangers fan. Chris Kreider was ejected, John Moore was ejected, the Rangers had to kill off 14 penalty minutes, and they were shutout through the first two periods, trailing 3-0 to start the third.

But that is when the miraculous started happening. About three minutes into the third period, Kevin Klein scored on a blast from the blue line to finally put the Rangers on the board, scoring his second goal of the season. Less than two minutes later, Rick Nash cashed in on a Matt Hunwick rebound in front to cut the lead to just one goal. It looked like the Rangers were finally back in it.

But Jason Zucker scored for the Wild less than a minute later, making it 4-2 Minnesota with less than 15 minutes remaining in the game. But like many other times throughout the season, the Rangers didn’t give up.

Carl Hagelin ripped a wrist shot off of the cross bar, which many people thought went in, and Derick Brassard took advantage of the Wild’s inattentiveness, sliding the puck into the empty net for a goal. Later in the period, Henrik Lundqvist made a remarkable save on an accidental redirection by Ryan McDonagh, keeping the deficit to just one goal. Then with less than four minutes remaining in regulation, the rookie Anthony Duclair bursted down the right wing, firing a wrist shot through the legs of Darcy Kuemper for his first career NHL goal, tying the game at four and sending the Garden into a frenzy. And just 37 seconds later, Mats Zuccarello scored his first goal of the season, collecting a pass from Derick Brassard and giving the Rangers their first lead of the game, and blowing the roof off of Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers overcame deficits of 3-0 and 4-2 in the third period, killed off 14 penalty minutes, and did this all while being down two players for over half of the game. It was an impossible comeback that they managed to pull off, and one of the most exciting games of the year.

2) Derek Stepan Game 7 Overtime Winner vs Capitals

The Rangers were looking to become the first team in NHL history to overcome 3-1 series deficits in back-to-back years. They were up against the Capitals, who had a tendency to blow series leads in the playoffs. Alex Ovechkin was doing everything that he could to back up his words, scoring the opening goal of the game in the first period.

But Kevin Hayes managed to score in the second period and tie the game at one. For the rest of the tense, three regulation periods, both goalies stole the show, making save after save to keep their season alive. The game went to overtime, setting the scene for either massive celebration, or total heartbreak at MSG.

The Capitals were pressuring early in the overtime period, but Lundqvist was making some good saves and keeping the Rangers comeback hopes afloat. Then later in overtime, on a faceoff, it happened. Words don’t really explain how amazing the goal was, and how excited  so I’ll just leave the video for you to watch. Also, this has got to be one of Doc Emerick’s best calls.

1) Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh help the Rangers come back in Game 5

I remember watching this game in my dorm room. The Capitals had won three games straight, scored the first goal of the game and looked to be on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals. But with 1:41 remaining, Chris Kreider took manners into his own hands.

With Henrik Lundqvist going to the bench, Keith Yandle flung the puck into the Capitals Zone. Stepan retrieved it, and dropped the puck back to Kreider for a one timer that surprised Holtby, and sent the Blueshirt faithful into a frenzy. The Garden had gone from a funeral to a party in a matter of seconds.

In overtime, the Rangers made sure that there would be a Game 6. Jesper Fast intercepted the puck in the neutral zone and carried it for an attack. After making a great cross ice pass to Derek Stepan, he faked the shot and dropped it off to McDonagh for a one time blast, beating Holtby and sending the Rangers into DC victorious.

It was close, but this was the best moment of the Rangers’ season. I remember sitting in my dorm room, all mellow that the Rangers looked to be out of the playoffs in just the second round. Most everyone in the Garden felt the same way too. But Kreider’s goal made the Garden as loud as I have ever heard it, and McDonagh’s goal meant that the season would continue.

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Posted on August 2, 2015, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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