Fans celebrate the moment when Michal Rozsival scored in double-OT on Sunday, ending the second-longest home game since the current Madison Square Garden opened in 1968.
• Rangers Topple Sabres in Double Overtime
Down 2-0 heading into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semfinals against Buffalo, the Rangers returned to Madison Square Garden knowing they could count on a lift from their fans. MSG is, after all, famous for its energy, and the playoffs always lead to an even louder noise level than the regular season.
"We gotta be loud," said Rich Onderko of Section 211 when asked before the game what he could do to help them team. "If we cheer the Goal Song, hopefully they will score a lot."
As soon as the Rangers appeared on GardenVision walking out of the locker room and onto the ice during warm-ups, the crowd erupted into a thunderous applause. Many fans moved closer to ice-level to watch the team practice. Mike Baker of Staten Island said he came down from his seat in section 420 to be closer to the ice during warm-ups.
"I'll cheer the best I can," he said before the Rangers came out. "They'll have the momentum on their side today. It's the aura of the building. There's a history here."
Fellow fan Ed Hussey agreed.
"It's the greatest arena in the world," he said. "I'm gonna cheer as loud as I can and get the crowd pumped up."
Before the game began, fans in the arena could text in a message that would be shown on GardenVision. "Let's Go Rangers," "Believe in blue," "Go Rangers," "We will win tonight," "Rangers rock," "Win baby!" and "We Want the Cup" were just some of the messages that flashed across the screen in the moments leading up to the game.
To help fire the crowd up even more, Bon Jovi's "Who Says You Can't Go Home" was played in the arena before the Rangers hit the ice.
A "Let's Go Rangers" chant erupted from the building when the Buffalo scratches came over the loudspeaker. Officer Steven McDonald's motivating speech from earlier this month, in which he challenged the Rangers to win in recalling how the Rangers had once challenged him to survive an injury, was replayed on GardenVision before the start of the game, as it has been throughout the playoffs.
As the Rangers stepped out onto the ice, they received a standing ovation from the home crowd, who almost completely drowned out an national anthem, whose end was barely audible over the cheers.
Just 33 seconds into the second period, Jaromir Jagr netted a goal for the Rangers and the crowd at the Garden sang along with the Rangers goal song. The crowd, most waving their white rally towels, stood up and celebrated the early lead.
Michal Roszival's double overtime goal also caused the crowd to jump up and they danced in their seats swinging their white towels. The game-winner prompted an extended celebration by the fans and the players themselves. The players gathered at center ice to do their stick salute to the fans.
Henrik Lundqvist's saves had caused the capacity crowd to chant "Hen-rik, Hen-rik" many times throughout the game. The Rangers goalie, named the game's No. 1 star, skated across the ice to participate in a postgame interview with Rangers radio analyst and former team captain Dave Maloney. That interview was shown on Gardenvision, but could barely be over the screams and chants still ringing through the arena after Rozsival's winning goal.
The fans left the arena listening and singing along to Sweet Caroline.
"The fans are more dedicated here. There's a lot of history and tradition here," said 22-year-old Tony Gianakos, who attended the game. "I think it gives the team motivation when they hear the crowd."
"We have good fans," Onderko said. "We're very classy and the best fans in the NHL."
There's no doubt the fans are helping, since the Rangers have now won all thee games they played on home ice in the postseason and have not lost a game at The Garden since March 13.