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Matteau, Gretzky take spots in Top 10 tonight

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Rangers, Devils in Division Showdown Tonight

And then there were two.

MSG's landmark "50 Greatest Moments at Madison Square Garden" series is down to two episodes, and the last 10 moments represent not only a celebration of The Garden, but also of the New York Rangers and their fans.

At 10 p.m. ET tonight, immediately following coverage of the Rangers-Devils game, MSG will count down moments 10-6. The final five moments will air on Jan. 23.

Every Rangers fan knows what the top Blueshirts moment will be, and that one will be showcased during the Jan. 23 finale. But while you might have to wait a week to relive your 1994 Stanley Cup euphoria, you can certainly get a big dose of Rangers pride from tonight's episode.

Tonight, MSG will look back at Wayne Gretzky's final NHL game, played on April 18, 1999, and at Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, also known as the "Matteau, Matteau, Matteau" game, played on May 27, 1994.

If you watched either one of these games, there's a good chance you remember where you were at the time, let alone what happened in the game. They were certainly two of the greatest events in Rangers history, and their ultimate ranking in the top 50 will be revealed tonight. Here is a brief synopsis of what to expect:

Gretzky's Final Game

The greatest player in NHL history waited until the last possible moment to announce his retirement, but when word came down just a few days before the Rangers' April 18, 1999, game vs. Pittsburgh, it was major news throughout the sports world.

Anyone lucky enough to be at The Garden for Gretzky's finale took part in perhaps the most heart-warming thank-you ever bestowed upon an athlete. Although the Great One's years in New York were limited to just three seasons, it seemed only fitting that he took his final bow on the game's biggest stage.

The Rangers and their fans gave Gretzky an emotional sendoff, leading up to the unforgettable moment when he hung up his skates for the last time. Although the Rangers lost that day -- ironically on a goal by future Blueshirt Jaromir Jagr - there was no doubt that Gretzky, who had an assist on the lone Rangers goal, left the ice a winner.

Matteau, Matteau, Matteau!

That historic call was made by former radio play-by-play man Howie Rose on May 27, 1994, after left wing Stephane Matteau scored at 4:24 of the second overtime, lifting the Blueshirts past New Jersey in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Rose's oft-replayed call and the unforgettable goal that sent the Rangers into the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals have forever tied Matteau to Rangers history. To say Matteau was an unlikely hero in 1994 would be an understatement. He had joined the team only two months earlier in a March 21 deal that sent Tony Amonte to Chicago for Matteau and Brian Noonan. When he arrived in New York that spring, Matteau figured he was little more than an insurance policy for a first-place team already dominating the Eastern Conference.

"I got there late in the season with only 13 games to go," Matteau remembered. "I thought they had traded for me to be a safety factor in case somebody got hurt in the playoffs. I didn't think I was going to play much."

Rangers head coach Mike Keenan, who also coached Matteau with the Blackhawks, had big plans for the young winger, and the 24-year-old eventually repaid him for such faith with the dramatic Game 7 winner.

"Winning the Stanley Cup totally ranks as the No. 1 moment in my career, and definitely helping the New York Rangers win against New Jersey ranks as one of the other top moments," Matteau said.

For more information on tonight's episode and "The 50 Greatest Moments at Madison Square Garden" visit
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