You can take Mats Zuccarello out of New York, but you can't take him out of the hearts of Rangers fans.
The Minnesota Wild forward received an incredible ovation from Rangers fans in his first game back at Madison Square Garden on Monday.
Zuccarello, who spent his first nine seasons with New York and led the Rangers in scoring four times, played his first game back at MSG since he was traded to the Dallas Stars on Feb. 23.
The Rangers played a touching highlight montage during the first media timeout, and the Garden faithful serenaded him a standing ovation and the traditional "Zuuucc" chant that locals used to cheer every time he touched the puck. He appeared to get emotional while waving to the crowd.
"It was emotional for sure in the beginning," Zuccarello said after the game, a 3-2 Rangers overtime win. "I had a great relationship with everyone here for many years, and ... it was unbelievable for me and [had] to fight back some tears there. It was big. A really, really nice moment for me and my family."
Zuccarello spent Sunday watching Manchester United with former Rangers teammates Jesper Fast and Mika Zibanejad, then went to visit friend and Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and his daughters.
"We've been good friends for a while now, and we get along well," Zuccarello said before the game. "I spent some time with his family, and that was really nice to get to see them."
NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen contributed to this report