Bronx, NY- A below freezing temperature of 24.9 degrees did not dissuade a sell-out crowd of 50,105 from purchasing tickets to the first outdoor hockey game in New York City.
Neither the cold nor the snow showers that fell on Yankee Stadium later in the game interfered with the contest or lessened the excitement of the fans in the stands. Strangely the game was delayed for more than one hour by weather conditions, the glare of the sun. The winning goaltender Henrik Lundquist of the Rangers told reporters after the game, “I was out there when the sun was still out and it was kind of hard.”
After an enthusiastic and entertaining version of a half-dozen of the hit recordings of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons performed by cast members of the Tony winning musical Jersey Boys, the dramatic introduction of the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils began. Members of both teams walked to the ice to the musical accompaniment of the NYPD and FDNY Pipes and Drums.
The first goal was scored by Patrik Eliasof the Devils at 5:36 of the first period. The score was tied on a goal by Dominic Moore 3.5 minutes later. The goals kept coming. New Jersey scored the next two goals, a second by Elias and one by Travis Zajac, to take a 3-1 advantage.
Jaromir Jagr assisted on both of the latter goals. His two assists raised his career total to 1,035, which passed the total of Mario Lemiux and his career points to 1,732, seventh in NHL history. The 41 year-old, future member of the Hockey Hall of Fame is the leading scorer of the Devils this year with 44 points.
The happy moments of the contest for the Devils passed quickly as the Rangers scored the final six goals of the game. After a late first period goal by Marc Staal, the game was knotted at 2:48 of period 2 on the first of two consecutive goals by Mats Zuccarello. A fifth Ranger goal was scored by Carl Hagelin.
Rick Nash scored his 18th goal of the season 29 seconds prior to the end of the second period. Nash extended his goal scoring streak to five games. He has scored 11 games in his last 11 games. The left winger is only two goals short of reaching a streak of 10 straight seasons of scoring at least 20 goals.
Ranger coach Alain Vigneault commented upon Nash’s recent success, “He’s going to the net a little more. He’s an elite player and we need him to play like that now.”
The only goal of the third period was by Derek Stepan of the Rangers on a penalty shot, the first such score in an outdoor NHL game. Devils coach DeBoer attributed the change in his team’s fortune in the second period to a mistake in plan, “We had a good first period. We started to open it up in the second and that’s not our game.”
Lundquist was disappointed in his and the team’s start, “It was not a good start. My first thought was am I going to finish this game.” As the game progressed the goalie saw he and his team adapt, “I recovered and as a team we recovered after that start. The way we responded was just great to see. We took advantage of some mistakes they made. It felt like we had so many guys step up.”
Three Stars were awarded to: 1. Mats Zuccarello (2 goals), 2. Patrik Elias (2 goals) and 3. Anton Stralman (2 assists).
For the losing coach to make the following statement exhibits how great this rare hockey event was, “Other than the outcome, it was one of the best hockey experiences we’ve had.”
On Wednesday night, January 29, Yankee Stadium will host a game between the Rangers and the New York islanders.
This article also appears on NewYorkSportsExaminer.com.