|New Jersey Devils – New York Rangers|
|1st Meeting||October 5, 1982|
|Last Meeting||February 6, 2010|
|Next Meeting||March 10, 2010|
|Number of Meetings||204|
|Regular Season Series||94–83–27 (.532)
|Largest Margin of Victory||9–1 New Jersey
(March 19, 2000)
|Post Season History|
|Post Season Meetings||22-19 (NYR)|
|1992 ECSF||Rangers won, 4-3|
|1994 ECF||Rangers won, 4-3|
|1997 ECSF||Rangers won, 4-1|
|2006 ECQF||Devils won, 4-0|
|2008 ECQF||Rangers won, 4-1|
The New Jersey Devils - New York Rangers Rivalry (Hudson River rivalry), exist between two National Hockey League teams in the New York metropolitan area. The two teams are called "cross-river rivals." This is because Madison Square Garden in Midtown Manhattan, where the Rangers play, is less than ten miles and across the Hudson River from the Prudential Center in downtown Newark (and previously, the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford), the home ice of the Devils. Travel between both arenas is easily accomplished by both road (usually through the Lincoln Tunnel) and rail (along the Northeast Corridor).
The rivalry began when the Devils moved from Colorado to the New York metropolitan area, in spite of the territorial fees paid to the Rangers, New York Islanders, and Philadelphia Flyers. For over 25 years, fans of both the Rangers and Devils have seen the best out of both their clubs whenever they meet. Despite the Devils' overall playoff superiority since the 1990s, the first three playoff series between these teams were all Rangers victories. Their first meeting occurred in the spring of 1992, when the Presidents' Trophy-winning Rangers survived a seven-game Patrick Division Semifinal series with the Devils.
The rivalry's most famous moments, however, are centered around the teams' second encounter: the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. Although both teams were the top point-getters in the NHL in 1994 (the Presidents' Trophy-winning Rangers netting 112 and the Devils notching 106), the story entering the series was the Rangers' 6-0 record against New Jersey that regular season. However, all ideas of a quick New York series were soon ended after Game 1, a 4-3 double overtime victory that was sealed by the Devils' Stephane Richer. The Rangers routed the Devils 4-0 in Game 2, and used a double overtime goal by Stéphane Matteau to take a 2-1 lead after Game 3. After dropping Games 4 and 5, the Rangers faced elimination going to New Jersey for Game 6. Prior to the game, Rangers captain Mark Messier guaranteed a victory in Game 6 at the Meadowlands; with the Rangers down 2-0 to the Devils, Messier scored a hat trick to tie the series at 3-3 and send it back to New York for Game 7. In Game 7, the Devils' Valeri Zelepukin tied the game with 7.7 seconds left in regulation, but thanks to another Matteau goal in double overtime the Rangers won the series and went on to win the Stanley Cup over the Vancouver Canucks, also in seven games. Interestingly, the first six games were won by the team that lost that respective game in 1992. That trend was reversed when the Rangers won Game 7 in '94. The Devils would eventually recover from that crushing defeat in 1994 and win the Stanley Cup the following year.
The third Devils-Rangers playoff series happened only three years later. The Rangers, led by Messier, eliminated the Devils in the 1997 Eastern Conference Semifinals. New Jersey was limited to five goals in the five-game series, including two shutout losses.
From the start of 1998, however, the pendulum began to swing the other way. New Jersey dominated New York during the regular season in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At one point, the Devils had an unbeaten streak against the Rangers throughout 23 regular season games going 15-0-8; starting on February 17, 1997, and ending March 31, 2001 — an undefeated streak spanning four years.
At the end of the 2005–06 season, the Devils had won 11 games straight — the second such streak of the season — and capped off the run by winning the Atlantic Division in comeback fashion against the Montreal Canadiens, a division win made all the more exciting by the fact that the Devils had been 22 points out of the lead just 3 months prior, with many thinking the team wouldn't make the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Rangers had the division lead for most of the latter part of the season, but fell victim to a losing skid as the season came to a close. The Devils took the Division title away from the Rangers by ending the season with 1 more point than New York. As fate would have it, the white-hot Devils met the Rangers in their 4th playoff meeting in the 2006 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The result was a four-game sweep by New Jersey over their cross-river rivals for the first time ever in franchise history.
Two years later, the teams would meet yet again in the playoffs for the 5th time, in the 2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. After long time Devil Scott Gomez signed with the Rangers before the 2007–08 season, he has been severely booed by Devils fans at the Prudential Center every time he touched the puck. Gomez scored 3 assists in Game 1 and 2 goals in Game 4 against his former team en route to a Rangers series win. In Game 3, Ranger Sean Avery used a tactic to screen opposing goaltender Martin Brodeur. While essentially ignoring the play on the ice when his team had a two-man advantage, Avery faced Brodeur and waved his hands and stick in front of him in an attempt to distract him and block his view. Although not illegal, many NHL commentators and players described Avery's actions as inappropriate. The following day, the NHL issued an interpretation of the league's unsportsmanlike conduct rule to cover actions such as the one employed by Avery. Following the Rangers victory in Game 5 of the series during the hand-shake line, Brodeur shook the hand of every Ranger except Avery. When asked what happened after the game, Avery said "I guess Fatso (Brodeur) forgot to shake my hand."
Fans on both sides have agreed the rivalry has become even stronger as of late, due in large part to the fact that both teams have shown much more parity towards each other. Many hockey analysts within the media have referred to them as "mirror teams" given their many similarities. Since the NHL Lockout, the two teams have met a total of 43 times (as of February 10, 2010) including postseason games. The Devils have won 20 of these contests, the Rangers have won 23.
Many Rangers fans have been seen burning Devils memorabilia after Ranger victories over the Devils, and lighting their cigarettes with it, while exiting Madison Square Garden. Devils fans, meanwhile, enjoy making confetti which reads "Rangers Suck" and handing them out during games at the Continental Airlines Arena and currently at the Prudential Center. The Jersey fans also have a cheer that is yelled and whistled at every game. In response to the "Let's Go Band"/"Potvin Sucks" chant of Rangers fans against the Islanders, the Devils fans at the Prudential Center cheer "Rangers Suck." This chant, just like the Potvin chant being heard whether the Rangers are playing the Islanders or not, is heard at every Devils home game. The Rangers and Devils rivalry is popular among fans, due to the geographic proximity, which is seen as a battle between the neighboring states of New York and New Jersey. While Devils fans will occasionally attend games at Madison Square Garden in large numbers (especially during the final two games of the 2006 series sweep), Rangers fans have historically showed up at both the Meadowlands and now the Prudential Center in extremely large numbers. Fans of both teams have also shown considerable hostility towards each other's goalies. Rangers fans have often battered Devils goalie Martin Brodeur with chants of "Marty! Marty! Marty!" after goals scored on him during games between the two teams. Conversely, Devils fans will chant "Henrik! Henrik! Henrik!" at Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist after the Devils score on him.
This rivalry was satirized in pop-culture with the Seinfeld episode "The Face Painter" in which David Puddy, a hard-core Devils fan, paints his face red at a playoff game against the Rangers in the Garden, to the embarrassment of Jerry, Kramer, and Elaine.
Recently, there have been parting shots taken by players and media at each organization through written words. In Beyond the Crease, an autobiography written by Martin Brodeur, he writes; "I hate the Rangers, and Lou hates them to death.". During their last playoff meet, actor/director Kevin Smith was asked to have a blog commenting on the series, which could be read on the NHL's official website. After Game 3 he wrote; "No Devils fan can truly pinpoint why we hate our cross-river rivals as much as we do. Even so, Devils fans live to hate the Rangers. Sometimes, it feels like a large cross-section of those folks in the stands at the Rock (and formerly at the Meadowlands) aren't there so much to love on the Devils as they are to hate on New York. Even when the boys in blue aren't anywhere near the building, we're still seething about their very existence. You'd think we'd hold a special place in our hearts for the Rangers, as they gave us our first ever win back in 1982. Granted, they don't roll over for us as much as Philly does (except, y'know - in that last game this season), but the Rangers've been hoisted up high on the Devils' pitchfork enough times (the '06 four-zip playoffs come to mind) to warrant at least a degree of affection right?"
The rivalry between the teams is so intense that the Rangers are the only NHL team with which the Devils have never made a trade.