While the history of the Penguins and Rangers is not enough for them to consider each other rivals, they certainly have shared some heated events and interesting connections in the past. In this article, I will cover some of the noteworthy events and players these two teams have shared over the last 49 years in anticipation of their third playoff series in three years.
David Shaw slashes Mario Lemieux in the throat.
The first major incident between the two teams happened on October 30, 1988. David Shaw of the Rangers made a two-handed slash across Mario Lemieux’s neck. Lemieux immediately went down and remained down for a few minutes. Pat Quinn of the Penguins went right after Shaw, brandishing his stick as a weapon. Quinn speared Shaw before the two ended up grappling and quickly went down to the ice.The entire Penguins bench got as close to Shaw as they could without jumping the boards as Shaw was escorted by them to the locker room.
The third period of that game would tally 282 PIMs and 9 game misconducts between the two teams as two separate brawls erupted in the last 5 minutes of play. Shaw would later received a 12-game suspension for his slash, which was the 3rd-longest suspension in league history at the time.
Adam Graves breaks Mario Lemieux’s hand with a slash.
In Game 2 of the 1992 Patrick Division Final, Adam Graves delivered a heel-first two-handed slash onto Lemieux’s left hand. Graves was only given a minor in game, but was hit with a 4-game suspension afterwards by the league. Those four games would be all it took for the Penguins to win the series 4-2. Lemieux was out of the line up for two weeks before returning in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Boston Bruins. Lemieux would score 8 points in the last three games of that series sweep. Lemieux would tally an additional 7 points in the Pens’ sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks for their second consecutive Stanley Cup.
Lemieux, when asked about the play some days later, commented that he thought the Rangers coach, Roger Neilson, had sent someone after him to hurt him intentionally. Lemieux said there was no question in his mind about that.
Lundqvist vs Crosby
The most notable aspect of the Rangers-Penguins match-up as of late has been the ongoing feud between Henrik Lundqvist and Sidney Crosby. While the two superstars seem to have a lot of respect for what the other has accomplished, they have a seething dislike for each other, which has culminated in a few unusual outbursts through the years. Most notably, there is the March 4, 2010, incident where Lundqvist called Crosby out for a suspected dive and a May 11, 2014, incident in which Lundqvist doused Crosby with water during a scrum.
Tortorella fined for comments about the Penguins
During a playoff game on April 5, 2012, Derek Stepan received a knee-to-knee hit by Brooks Orpik. In the post-game interview, Tortorella ripped hard into the Penguins organization and earned himself a $20,000 fine from the league. Crosby’s response was rather cool-headed with a touch of frustration.
Regular Season Match-Ups History
The Penguins entered the league in the 1967 Expansion and first faced the Rangers on October 22, 1967. They lost 6-4, which was a respectable loss for them against an Original 6 team that year. They would manage to tie the Rangers 2-2 in their third match-up on February 10, 1968. It wouldn’t be until their 8th meeting on February 5, 1969, that the Penguins would first overcome the Rangers.
The Penguins struggled against the Rangers for years after entering the league. By the end of 1974, the historic match-up between these two teams favored the Rangers with 29 wins, 5 losses, and 7 ties. But the tide would change from then on. The Penguins regrouped to find three victories and only one loss to the Rangers in 1975 and they would continue that trend for years to come. Between the start of 1975 and 1981, the Penguins found 15 victories, 9 losses, and 5 ties.
While the Rangers found some periods of resurgence against the Penguin, their winning percentage would gradually slip over the decades. Today, the Rangers sit ahead of the Penguins with 120 wins, 32 ties, and 114 losses. (Quick note: I counted shootouts as ties.) At their height in 1989, the Rangers had 24 more wins than losses against the Penguins. Today they sit only 6 regular season victories ahead of their rival.
More Importantly: Playoff Match-Ups History
It was not until the 1981-82 season that the Rangers and Penguins were placed in the same conference (and division). Prior to that, the only opportunity for these two teams to meet in the playoffs was in the Stanley Cup Final and that simply did not happen. However, even then it took until 1989 for these two teams to find each other in the playoffs. By then, the Penguins were led by three 100-point scorers (most notably, Lemieux with 199 pts) while the Rangers’ best talent was a budding Brian Leetch who captured the Calder with 71 pts in 68 games played. Unsurprisingly, the Penguins swept the Rangers in the first round.
The Penguins would win additional series against the Rangers in 1992 (where they went on to win the Stanley Cup), 1996, and 2008. However, the Rangers have reversed that trend with a 4-3 series win in 2014 and a 4-1 series win in 2015.
Notable Shared Players Throughout the Years
This year’s rosters will include five players who are playing against their former squad. The players and their stats for when they played for their upcoming opponent are as follows:
Interesting note: The Rangers traded Pascal Dupuis on February 27, 2007, to the Atlanta Thrashers along with their 3rd round pick in 2007. That 3rd round pick was then included in a deal between the Thrashers and Penguins. The Penguins ultimately selected Robert Bortuzzo with that pick that originally belonged to the Rangers.
The most prolific player to have spent time on both teams would have to be Jarogmir Jagr. Jagr is a historic figure in both franchises. He sits second in career games played, goals, assists, and points for the Penguins, behind only Mario Lemieux. He was a core piece of the Penguins team for 11 years, including the two Stanley Cup teams he played for in his teenage years. Jagr won five Art Ross trophies, two Pearson trophies, and one Hart trophy with the Penguins.
While Jagr was only a Ranger for four years and only won a Pearson trophy with them, he is remembered as one of their greatest players. He holds their single season records in goals and points. He elevated a team that was outside the playoff bubble into the post-season (even if only for a first round exit) in his four years with the Rangers.
Trading Partners in the 90s: Zubov, Nedved, Samuelsson, Robitaille, Hatcher, Kovalev, and Stevens
The Rangers made a significant trade with the Penguins in 1995 to try and repeat their 1994 Stanley Cup run. The Rangers gave up Sergei Zubov and Petr Nedved in exchange for Ulf Samuelsson and Luc Robitaille.
Zubov and Nedved would combine for 233 points in 218 games with the Penguins. Through a 1996 trade for Kevin Hatcher, Zubov found his home in Dallas. Hatcher was then traded from the Penguins to the Rangers on September 30, 1999 for Peter Popovic.
Nedved returned to the Rangers via another trade in 1998 that sent Alexei Kovalev to the Penguins with some additional, lesser pieces going each way. Kovalev would be part of an eight-person trade back to the Rangers by the Penguins in 2003.
Robitaille would produce 117 points in 146 games with the Rangers before a 1997 trade for former Penguins star Kevin Stevens sent Robitaille to Los Angeles for his second of three stays with the Kings.
Samuelsson would stick with the Rangers for four years and accumulate 60 points and 475 PIMs in 287 games. He was traded to Detroit in 1999 for a package of draft picks. Samuelsson is presently an assistant coach with the New York Rangers.
Finally, Rangers legend and Hall of Famer Andy Bathgate played for both franchises. Bathgate was a long-time Ranger who was the Rangers’ leading scorer from 1956 to 1963. As a result, he sits at fourth in career goals, assists, and points for the Blueshirts.
By the time the 1967 Expansion Draft came, Bathgate was playing for the Red Wings, who decided to leave him unprotected. The Penguins claimed him in the 19th round as the 112th overall pick. Bathgate scored the first goal of the Penguins franchise and led the team in scoring for their inaugural year. The Penguins would play him for one more year before trading him to the Vancouver Blazers of the WHA.
In 2009, the Penguins selected his grandson Andy Bathgate, III, with the #151 overall pick in the 5th round of the entry draft. The younger Bathgate is currently playing for the Columbus Cottonmouths of the SPHL. Unfortunately, the elder Bathgate passed away on February 26, 2016, at the age of 83.