2012 stanley cup playoffs

Ranking Every Madison Square Garden Game 7

The Rangers celebrate Stephane Matteau’s goal in Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals.

Tomorrow night, the Rangers will play in a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden for the fourth time in franchise history. (They’re 3-0 in such games.) The Knicks, meanwhile, have played in seven Game 7s at the arena since it opened in 1968 (compiling a 5-2 record). These Garden Game 7s have ranged from classic games with championships on the line to early-round blowouts. But which Game 7 is the best? We’ve ranked them all here, factoring in everything from how close the game itself was to how deep into the playoffs it took place. We didn’t factor in whether the home team won — a game can still be a classic if the home team loses — but it helped if the game produced an iconic moment that’s still discussed today. Here, now, the rankings.

10. 1992 Patrick Division Semifinals
Rangers 8, Devils 4
Until the puck drops in tomorrow’s Rangers–Senators game, this remains the only Game 7 to take place at the Garden in the first round of a four-round postseason. The Rangers had won the Presidents’ Trophy during the regular season in 1992, but New Jersey took them to a Game 7, in which Adam Graves, Mark Messier, and Darren Turcotte each scored twice to advance the Rangers to the next round. (They’d be upset by eventual champion, Pittsburgh.)

9. 1970 Eastern Divison Semifinals
Knicks 127, Bullets 114
Of the Knicks’ Garden Game 7s, only the one in the 1970 Finals — a game memorable for other reasons — was decided by a larger margin.

8. 1974 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Knicks 91, Bullets 81
These teams would meet in the playoffs for the sixth-straight year, though this Game 7 wasn’t as close as the previous one between the teams (spoiler alert) back in 1971. Earl Monroe, who’d switch sides in this rivalry in 1971, scored 30 points in Game 7 as the Knicks took the opening-round series.

7. 1994 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Knicks 87, Bulls 77
The Knicks finally got the best of Chicago, albeit in a season in which Michael Jordan was playing minor-league baseball. The Knicks would win the deciding Game 7 by ten, though this series might be best remembered for its controversial Game 5, in which Scottie Pippen was whistled for a foul on Hubert Davis in the closing seconds, allowing Davis to sink two free throws to turn a one-point deficit into a one-point lead.

6. 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Pacers 97, Knicks 95
Another Game 7 between these two teams that went down to the wire, albeit one round earlier this time. In the final seconds, Patrick Ewing drove the lane with a chance to the the score, but his finger roll clanked off the rim, and Reggie Miller’s Pacers could finally celebrate a series victory over their rivals.

5. 1971 Eastern Conference Finals
Bullets 93, Knicks 91
The Knicks–Pacers rivalry in the mid-nineties may get the ESPN documentary treatment these days, but the Knicks and Bullets had quite the intense rivalry in the days of Willis Reed and Wes Unseld. The Knicks had eliminated Washington from the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons, but the Bullets punched their ticket to the Finals with a Game 7 victory at the Garden after Fred Carter drained a jumper with just more than a minute remaining.

4. 1994 Eastern Conference Finals
Knicks 94, Pacers 90
The Pacers led this game by a point until Ewing’s dunk put the Knicks on top for good. Miller — who’d scored 25 points in the fourth quarter of Game 5 just four days earlier — got off a shot in the closing seconds with the Pacers down by one, but it was off the mark, and the Knicks would advance to the Finals for the first time since 1973.

3. 1970 NBA Finals
Knicks 113, Lakers 99
This game’s most famous moment came before the opening tip-off, when Reed emerged from the now-gone tunnel at mid-court and limped onto the floor during pre-game warm-ups. The game itself wasn’t especially close — the Knicks led 61-37 at the half — but Reed’s entrance to the arena remains, to this day, the most iconic moment in Knicks history. Walt Frazier had a huge game — 36 points, nineteen assists — as the Knicks captured their first NBA title. Could this be ranked above Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals? Perhaps — these are the greatest moments in the history of the Knicks and Rangers, respectively. But for purposes of this list, we’ll give the nod to the more competitive game.

2. 1994 Stanley Cup Finals
Rangers 3, Canucks 2
A storybook ending to a storybook season, in which the four pillars of this team — the ones whose numbers hang today in the Garden rafters — shined: Brian Leetch, Graves, and Messier scored the three goals, while Mike Richter protected a one-goal lead in the final minutes to secure the Rangers’ first Stanley Cup since 1940.

1. 1994 Eastern Conference Finals
Rangers 2, Devils 1 (2 OT)
One of the great hockey games of all time. The Rangers nursed a 1-0 lead until the final moments of regulation, when Valeri Zelepukin tied the game with 7.7 seconds left on the clock. This is the only Garden Game 7 to go into overtime — it went into double-overtime, in fact — and it produced perhaps the most famous goal in Rangers history: “Fetisov for the Devils plays it cross-ice, into the far corner. Matteau swoops in to intercept. Matteau behind the net, swings it in front … “ Surely you know the rest.

Ranking Every Madison Square Garden Game 7