Updated: Oct 21, 2020
Before I attended my first game at the Garden, I had the opportunity to see a handful of matchups between the two NY teams at the colosseum – the tickets weren’t as expensive.
While exciting, it was not a good start for this blue-shirt fan: every time I was there, the boys in orange and blue would win and I was quickly introduced to the rivalry between the fanbases. Though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it amusing to see grown men giving each other the business over their respective teams.
Fast forward to my 19th birthday: I finally got tickets to my very first game at the Garden! NY was playing Washington and at the time, I had a deep-seeded rivalry with them, so it was the perfect game – I was stoked as all hell!
Within the first minute of the game, Rick Nash took advantage of a turnover in the Caps’ zone, darted towards the net and put one past Grubauer with a nice backhand. It was a fantastic start to the game! The energy in the arena was electric the second Nash touched that puck and that liveliness kept their momentum high throughout the first: Nash scored another on a PP and Derek Stepan finished that period off with a wrister. 3-0.
One minute into the second period, Washington has a two-man advantage, and Ovechkin gets one past Lundqvist on a one-timer. I wasn’t surprised.
There was one thing I always expected: If Ovi didn’t get a goal yet, don’t worry, it’s coming. Despite my beef with that team, I’d be an idiot not to consider him as one of the greats – A fitting nickname for number 8 indeed.
A few minutes later, with NY still shorthanded, captain Ryan Callahan and Dominic Moore raced down the ice for a scoring chance. Braden Holtby blocked Moore’s shot but Callahan was quick to put it in on the rebound, all while dealing with a determined Dmitry Orlov on his back.
The two crashed into the net, but the goal was good.
The rest of the game consisted of Holtby and Hank standing on their heads with both teams creating many chances. In the end, NY held onto that 4-1 lead. It was an exciting game and one that I won’t forget.
I guess it’s a little funny that later that year, my so-called “deep-seeded” rivalry with the Caps fizzled away and was taken over by the Kings. That final still makes me a little salty to this day, especially on Hank’s behalf, but I will say, that series was a hell of a battle – much like the many exciting playoff battles between the Rangers and the Caps.
Looking back at the details of that game, I noticed that every player who earned a point that night is either retired or traded: Derek Stepan, Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash, Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, Dominic Moore and Dan Girardi. (And more than half of them played for Tampa) This 2014 squad had a strong identity before the rebuild happened, and while it’s taking this new team many years to find their own, I believe this 2019-2020 season gave us a preview of a fresh, resilient group coming around the corner.