MONTREAL -- Great players make for great rivalries. Without the contributions of legendary Habs players over the years, the Canadiens’ Original Six rivalry with the Rangers would hardly be the same.
From Howie Morenz to Patrick Roy with Maurice Richard and Jean Beliveau in between, the 15 players with their jerseys hanging high above the ice at the Bell Centre all made life difficult for the Rangers over the course of their 82-year rivalry.
Roy’s coming out party as rookie included one of the most brilliant performances of his career on May 5, 1986 at Madison Square Garden. In Game 3 of the Wales Conference Finals, a 21-year-old Roy made 44 saves, including all 13 shots he faced in overtime, en route to a 4-3 win over the Rangers. Roy would raise the Stanley Cup for the first time only a few weeks later.
You never forget your first kiss...or your first goal. “The Rocket”, his little brother Henri and Bernard Geoffrion each scored their first NHL goals against New York. Speaking of firsts, Jean Beliveau got into the act by with the first of his 18 career hat-tricks coming as a rookie against the Rangers back in 1952.
As for Dickie Moore, he will always remember the Rangers as the team he notched his 96th point against the night he set a new NHL record for points in season back in 1958-59.
While he surely enjoyed less painful highlights over his career, goaltending pioneer Jacques Plante changed the face of hockey on November 1, 1959. On that night at Madison Square Garden, Plante was struck in the face by a shot by the Rangers’ Andy Bathgate before returning to action in his groundbreaking mask.
Ken Dryden, Serge Savard and Yvan Cournoyer all raised the Stanley Cup for the last time of their careers in the spring of 1979, while the sullen Rangers looked on as Bob Gainey was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
On December 11, 1986, against the Rangers at the Forum, Larry Robinson picked up the 600th assist of his career, making him to this day the only defenseman in franchise history to ever do so.
Some Canadiens immortals have even had the chance to live the rivalry from both sides, including Guy Lafleur, who donned a Rangers jersey after spending most of his career with the Canadiens, just like Morenz, Plante, Doug Harvey and “Boom Boom” did before him. Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com