The New Jersey Devils once had an unbeaten streak of 20 games against the rival, New York Rangers. Relive some of the top moments from that incredible run.
The Devils accomplished the extraordinary and had an undefeated streak against the Rangers which lasted from the start of the 1997 regular season and finally ended in March of 2001. While New Jersey had won a Stanley Cup title during that memorable stretch and also had a roster with a number of Hockey Hall of Fame skaters, the streak deserves some notable recognition.
Here’s a look back, season by season, on the New Jersey Devils’ unbeaten streak against the New York Rangers from 1997 until 2001.
How it all began
Fresh off of being eliminated by the Rangers in the 1997 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in five games, New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello and his Devils must have had some sort of silent oath with one another that the team would never again lose to New York.
Considering that the team didn’t fall to the likes of the Broadway Blueshirts for four consecutive seasons doesn’t happen by coincidence, especially given how extensive in length an NHL regular season is at 82 games.
Jersey’s team faced-off with the Rangers on six different occasions during the 1997-98 NHL campaign, but somehow captain Scott Stevens and company shut down New York.
New Jersey won four of the six contests, while the team across the Hudson River managed to collect two points in the process by taking the Devils to overtime in two contests, which saw both games end in a tie.
The memorable streak officially began on Nov. 12, 1997, after the Devils defeated the Rangers by a score of 3-2 at Madison Square Garden. Youngster Petr Sykora opened up the scoring for New Jersey in the second period, and Brian Rolston found the back of the net later in the frame. Two-time New Jersey Devil, and one-time New York Ranger, Bobby Holik was credited with the game-winning goal.
The Devils outscored the Rangers 22-14 in the six games, but fans also witnessed goaltender Martin Brodeur start between the pipes for every contest. Keep in mind that the Devils won all three games that were played at the old Continental Airlines Arena.
The Devils roster entailed notable skaters such as Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Randy McKay, Bobby Holik, Ken Daneyko, Dave Andreychuk, Doug Gilmour, Bill Guerin, Jason Arnott, Steve Thomas and John MacLean.
Other familiar names from that Devils’ squad are skaters such as Brian Rolston, Brendan Morrison, Jay Pandolfo, Bob Carpenter, Sergei Brylin, Mike Dunham, Petr Sykora and Patrik Elias.
Speaking of Elias, 1997-98 was the Devils’ all-time points leader’s first full season with New Jersey. No. 26 recorded one goal and chipped in three helpers for a total of four points in six games vs. New York that season. In 84 career games against the Rangers, Elias scored 23 goals and had 50 assists totaling 73 points.
The New Jersey Devils not only recorded their third straight season with 100 points or more (105) in the NHL’s standings, but New Jersey also defeated the Rangers in all five meetings during the 1998-99 campaign.
Jersey outscored Gretzky and the Broadway Blueshirts, 20-8, remaining undefeated on home ice at the Meadowlands after the team won all three contests. Again, the Legendary Brodeur started in every game for the Devils, and skaters such as Holik, Andreychuk, Stevens, Arnott and the young Elias led the way in scoring for New Jersey.
As for the greatest goaltender of all-time, Brodeur posted an impressive .938 save percentage and 1.60 goals-against-average (GAA) in his five appearances against New York.
Keep in mind that this was also former Devil-great, John MacLean’s first season skating against the Devils and as a Ranger. Johnny Mac had inked a three-year deal with New York during the 1998 offseason via unrestricted free agency, after the Devils and No. 15 were unable to negotiate a contract extension the year prior.
No, the Devils didn’t complete another five-game series sweep over the Rangers during the 1999-2000 campaign, but the team still continued its dominance and revenge over New York.
The Devils roster entailed a change of scenery in all areas on the ice with the addition of youngsters such as Brian Rafalski, John Madden, and Scott Gomez. The team departed ways with the likes of skaters such as Rolston and Andreychuk, but did re-acquire Claude Lemieux and acquired Alexander Mogilny from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for (most notable) Brendan Morrison.
New Jersey kicked off the season series in early December with a 3-2 victory over the Rangers at Continental Airlines Arena. Sykora, Elias, Mckay, and Holik all continued to haunt the Garden Faithful by inking their names onto the scoresheet, and Brodeur earned another “W” against his favorite local critics.
One day after Christmas in 1999, the Devils and Rangers faced-off in a memorable contest on Broadway. While the Devils tied New York, 3-3, and blew a 3-1 lead, there was a pleasant surprise and story that developed at the Garden.
The (eventual) 1999-2000 Calder Trophy winner (Rookie of the Year), Scott Gomez, earned his first career hat trick against Mike Richter and company. Not only did Gomer record the hat trick at the Garden, but he netted all three goals during the game’s first two periods of play.
The feat was one of the top highlights from New Jersey’s Stanley Cup championship campaign, especially for the Anchorage, Alaska native who had always wanted to embrace playing on the big stage in New York.
New Jersey would then win the next two out of three contests against the Rangers while outscoring New York 9-4 in the process. Again, the Devils continued their undefeated streak on home ice.
After hoisting the Stanley Cup for the second time in franchise history the Devils recorded their best season in history when the team earned 111 points in the league standings (48-19-12) in 2000-01.
The Devils opened up the season series against New York with a 5-2 victory, yet the rivals would skate to a tie in the next two contests. Still, New Jersey’s streak against the Rangers almost ended during the team’s second meeting, but Brian Rafalski came to the rescue when he netted the game-tying goal with less than two minutes remaining in regulation at Madison Square Garden (5-5 tie).
New Jersey continued its unbeaten streak against the Rangers and defeated the Blueshirts in the fourth meeting on the year, 4-0, and continued its impressive streak at the Meadowlands. Though, the Devils were stunned by the Rangers nine days later back at Continental.
On March 31, 2001, the Devils’ unbeaten streak against the Rangers finally came to an end. New York skated to a 4-3 victory over New Jersey during a matinée contest back at the Meadowlands. Newly acquired goaltender in Guy Hebert was the masked man to earn the victory against Brodeur and the Devils on that day.
The former Mighty Duck stopped 38 of 41 shots to earn the Rangers’ first win against the New Jersey Devils since the spring of 1997.
After the Devils’ streak ended in the heated rivalry against the Rangers, New Jersey made two appearances in the Stanley Cup Final (2001 & 2003) and hoisted its third Stanley Cup championship in 2003 when the Devils took down the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in seven games.
It would be hard to imagine that the rivalry would see another streak such as this one again, but only time can tell.