Plausibly liveblog: “Rangers vs. Islanders”? (Feb. 14, 1988)

So the tape at the bottom of the box only says “Rangers vs. Islanders, 300-4000” in my mother’s handwriting. Nothing else about it, and without knowing which VCR she used to check it, I don’t even know what 3700 counter-clicks means. Let’s give ‘er a look together, huh?


0-7:00: Static. So we set the timer on this one.

7:00: Rangers Gameday (an afternoon game) begins with Sam Rosen and John Davidson. John Ogrodnick returns to the Rangers lineup after an injury.

It’s pre-renovation at the Garden. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue.

It’s Valentine’s Day, Rosen says. And with that, it hits me: We went to this game. A quick check cements it. It’s Feb. 14, 1988, in Manhattan. My first time at the Garden for hockey. I won’t spoil the result.

(Click on for more.)

The next few minutes on the pregame show are a scores-and-highlights show from around the league and beyond. Olympic scores. Knicks highlights: “better than 13,000 at the Garden,” Rosen says.

Phil Esposito does a commercial for a car dealership. Trade-in joke deleted.

15:00: Rosen has a couple of player agents, Harvey LaKind and Bob Thornton, for an interview. Thornton points out that hockey doesn’t have salary disclosure yet, unlike the other sports. Of course, LaKind says, there’s no salary cap, unlike the NBA, though that doesn’t help as much as you might think, because there’s less money in hockey. A different world.

22:30: Bumper before commercial shows… the World Trade Center. Sniffle.

26:00: Coach’s corner with Michel Bergeron. Bruce Bell is up from Denver, with Ron Greschner out. There are rumors out of Toronto that Bergeron could be the next GM in Quebec. Bergeron doubts it but jokes about having to send the pick back to New York. Joe Paterson will be back in the Rangers lineup.

28:30: It’ll be John Vanbiesbrouck against Kelly Hrudey. Off to a taped feature with Vanbiesbrouck giving a goaltending clinic.

33:00: The Isles started 17-7-1. They’re 9-16-5 since. For you young’ns, no, you’re not seeing things: There are only three columns, and the third represents something called a “tie.”

35:00: Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller for the Meadowlands Racetrack! Right on. First race 7:30.

35:30: The best of British Rock, on four LPs, three cassettes or two compact discs. Right on.

36:00: Want a new Volvo? $16,920.

36:30: Hi, Mark Jackson of the New York Knicks. Thanks for telling us that MSG brings the Garden home.

37:00: The last two Rangers-Islanders games have been ties. Ah, the old MSG intro. Very HBO.

38:00: It’s Walt Poddubny’s 28th birthday. RIP. Denis Potvin is out for the Islanders. It won’t change anything up in the still-Blue Seats.

40:00: Mitsubishi can top Volvo: $5,295.

First period

OK, so the home team in white. Paul Stewart, Wayne Bonney-Dan McCourt running the show. Dahlen-Poddubny-Paterson, Petit-Patrick for the Rangers. Fox hasn’t revolutionized sports television (for good or ill) yet, so the clock isn’t on-screen at all times. The screen looks naked. It takes the Blue Seaters about 14 seconds to mention Mr. Potvin.

19:08 remaining: Paterson hits Dale Henry, and that sparks a fight. Paterson goes despite the half-shield protecting a broken cheek bone. Two and five for both.

19:00: Rangers scratches include Lucien Deblois (hip) for the first time this year. Ogrodnick returns to his usual spot with Kelly Kisio and Brian Mullen, and moments later, Mullen draws the game’s first power play when rookie Jeff Finley takes him down.

Commercial break. Howard Stern has a pay-per-view special

The Rangers are fourth in the league on the power play; the Isles are 17th of 21 on the kill. Dionne-Poddubny-Sandstrom for the Rangers with Patrick and Norm Maciver on the point.

Marcel Dionne redirects a Poddubny shot for his 718th career goal, passing GM Phil Esposito for second place all-time in the NHL. Espo goes to the bench to give Dionne a pat on the back. Dionne (25, 18 on the power play) from Poddubny and Patrick at 2:33 (pp).

No ads behind the net at the Garden yet. Hrudey makes a couple of good saves, though he leaves one rebound but gets his stick behind him to stop captain Kisio.

Ken Morrow gets the Islanders’ first shot on goal from the right wing. The commercial break includes several things that would confound a 10-year-old, such as a “5.25-inch floppy disk” and “Manufacturer’s Hanover.” (And, by the way, we’re still doing one commercial per break, seven or eight times a period, as opposed to the three 90-second breaks we take now.)

Davidson notes that Sandstrom got away with a vicious spear against Washington a few nights earlier. Not Sandstrom!

Sandstrom gets a step on the Islanders defense. Hrudey comes way out to challenge him and has to dive back to put the glove on Sandstrom’s left-circle shot.

Thursday at 7: High School Sportsweek with Greg Gumbel.

Davidson notes that Bergeron said he hadn’t planned to match lines, but he has put Ron Duguay against Brent Sutter twice in a row.

There is precisely one person involved in this game whose name I don’t remember, for some reason: Ken Leiter, who gives Poddubny a shot to the back of the head. (Did he not get a hockey card or something? Why wouldn’t I remember that name, of all names?) Penalty upcoming after this commercial break: “Gimme a light.”

Oops — Dionne trips Bob Bassen to even things out at 12:58. (Well, Dionne puts his stick out at waist height and Bassen tries to jump over it, falling over it. Good call, nonetheless, despite the crowd’s disapproval.)

Mikko Makela ties ‘er up on the four-on-four. LaFontaine pulls up on the left wing against Jari Gronstrand, gets it cross-ice to Makela, Makela goes around the forward Mullen to get free, and puts it over Vanbiesbrouck’s right sholder. Makela (29) from LaFontaine and Kelly Hrudey at 13:35. Off the draw, Derek King works his way into the slot, but Vanbiesbrouck kicks the shot away.

Vanbiesbrouck makes three point-blank saves after a point shot gets deflected into him. The second two saves are made while on his left side.

David Shaw takes Greg Gilbert down at 15:20. Finley’s in Potvin’s spot on the power play. A Vanbiesbrouck clear helps the Rangers kill it off.

It’s 1-1 after one. Shots are 12-9 Rangers.

It’s Telly Savalas for Players Club! Who loves ya, baby? And after an Espo-Dionne joint interview… It’s O.J. Simpson and Arnold Palmer for Hertz! Two great spokesmen.

Taped feature on Ice Hockey in Harlem, new then but venerable now.

Second period

Davidson has no sooner finished saying how the Leiter-Morrow pair has struggled recently, than the Islanders blow a clear, Shaw pinches and keeps it in to Dionne behind the net, Dionne centers to Sandstrom, and Sandstrom puts the puck five-hole on Hrudey. Sandstrom (19) from Dionne and Shaw at 1:23, 2-1 Rangers.

After a few nothing-special minutes, Trottier centers for Makela for a tight-in save that Vanbiesbrouck splits on, getting it with the left pad. He makes a kick save on Greg Gilbert shortly thereafter. Gilbert is still kind of shaking his head after he tripped over the red line a shift or two earlier, which cost him a breakaway.

Gronstrand takes his man, LaFontaine, down in the corner as LaFontaine goes to retrieve it. The biggest differences between now and then are the penalty standards and the overall speed — this looks more like an AHL game does now, that half-step-slower pace.

Out of a commercial break, Makela hits Vanbiesbrouck’s glove and then the right post. The Islanders keep coming, Trottier forces a James Patrick turnover, and Makela wraps a backhander around from Vanbiesbrouck’s right and through his legs as Duguay takes Makela down. 2-2: Makela (2-30) from Trottier and Kromm at 10:01.

But seconds later, Norm Maciver goes on an end-to-end rush and gets dumped for a Rangers power play. Dionne gets one really good shot off before Petit gets called to even things up. Both teams get by, but the Islanders now have a 20-18 shots advantage.

The Isles, Davidson notes, have been the aggressive team for the past 20 minutes. But they get a little too aggressive, which leaves Joe Paterson open in the slot; he puts a shot just wide of Kelly Hrudey. The other way, Alan Kerr hits the post to Vanbiesbrouck’s right. Gilbert puts a backhander just wide. Gilbert slams the door at the bench in frustration.

The Rangers pick up a late power play… off a draw in the Islanders zone, Ogrodnick ties up Bob Bassen at the left half-wall, and Kisio swoops in, takes it away, takes it to the dot and blasts it through Hrudey for a 3-2 Rangers lead. Kisio (17) from Ogrodnick at 18:23 (pp).

The Isles pull Hrudey for an offensive-zone faceoff with two seconds left. Brent Sutter pushes the draw forward, around Duguay, and gets a shot toward the net, but Vanbiesbrouck knocks it away. 3-2 Rangers after two.

Commercial break: It’s the laser-beam wristwatch! Those aren’t hands. They’re Electronic! Pulses! of Light! And it doesn’t cost the hundreds of dollars you might think! Just $10 (plus $2 shipping and handling)! But wait, there’s more! A SECOND laser-beam wristwatch costs just $5! Darn: I missed the phone number.

Third period

And off the draw, Gilbert gets in and ends the frustration 15 seconds in. Davidson reports that Gilbert was working on sticks between periods. Vanbiesbrouck’s clear goes off LaFontaine into the right circle, and Gilbert backhands it upstairs over Vanbiesbrouck’s right shoulder. Gilbert (10) from LaFontaine at 15 seconds; it’s 3-3.

The Rangers come back with a good shift, but Hrudey dives on top of the puck after Patrick’s shot caroms off the endboards. The Islanders come back, and Vanbiesbrouck sprawls to cover the bottom of the net as Sutter tries to stuff one home.

Elsewhere, rookie Joe Nieuwendyk has his 42nd goal, and Calgary leads Washington 2-1.

It’s a lot more chaotic here than in the first couple of periods. Vanbiesbrouck lays out to stop a LaFontaine redirection and finally gets his glove on top of Gilbert’s rebound. We need this commercial break.

Gronstrand soon enough goes for hooking; Sandstrom whips the puck past Stewart, which draws a misconduct. The Isles go to their fourth power play. Duguay can’t clear, but a tic-tac-toe play (one pass too many) results in a save on LaFontaine, though Vanbiesbrouck’s blocker hand is a little dinged.

As they get back even, Dahlen gets free for a shot from the slot off James Patrick’s pass; Hrudey makes the save. The other way, Maciver hauls down Bassen; Stewart makes no call.

And off a right-circle draw, Gerald Diduck gives the Islanders their first lead on a blast from the right point over Vanbiesbrouck’s glove. Diduck (4) from LaFontaine at 9:20. Three assists for LaFontaine. It’s 4-3.

But now Diduck grabs onto Duguay going into the corner, and that sends the Rangers back to the power play with 8:02 to go. They’re 2-for-4.

James Patrick, in deep, has two good chances off the draw, but Hrudey stops one and another goes wide. After a clear, Patrick’s again in deep and just missed a midair deflection off Mullen’s feed. Patrick comes out of the left corner then and puts one into the crease, where no one finds it for a few seconds before play comes to a halt. That doesn’t slow the Rangers down, though. Petit’s shot gets knocked down into the crease, and Dionne, taking whack after whack from Ken Morrow, finds the loose puck behind Hrudey for the tying goal. Dionne (2-26) from Petit and Dahlen at 13:48 (pp). Patrick, Rosen and Davidson make sure to note, set that up by carrying the puck to gain the zone.

Jan Erixon draws another Rangers power play a little while later after Konroyd grabs his stick with 4:45 to go. The power play is 3-for-5. But Trottier clears off the draw. That disrupts things, and even when another Trottier clear hits Shaw, Trottier rushes out to block Shaw’s shot, which almost gets him a breakway except that Shaw strips the puck from behind.

Neither team has been shy about crashing the net, and Kelly Kisio goes hard toward Hrudey for a rebound. Hrudey has the puck, Kisio’s close, LaFontaine nails Kisio, and the collision leaves Hrudey sprawled on his back for a few seconds. Kisio and LaFontaine both get a roughing minor with 40 seconds left.

Regulation ends, 4-4.


(Despite two guys in the box, of course, we’re five-on-five, not three-on-three.)

Makela again goes nuts. He changes speed around one guy. He changes speed on Gronstrand. Gronstrand sweeps for the puck. Makela jumps over the stick, comes down, loses his footing and goes sprawling into the boards. He wants a call. None is coming. Off the draw, a Diduck shot hits Norm Maciver in the mouth. Ouch.

Shaw blocks a Richard Kromm shot, keeping Kromm off the scoreboard for the 36th game in a row.

Elsewhere, Mike Gartner’s second of the afternoon gives Washington a 5-4 win over Calgary in overtime, ending a back-and-forth game.

No amazing chances the rest of the way, and it’s a final at the Garden: Islanders 4, Rangers 4.

(A three-hour game, remarkably.)


John Ogrodnick-Kelly Kisio (C)-Brian Mullen
Ulf Dahlen-Walt Poddubny-Joe Paterson
Don Maloney (A)-Marcel Dionne-Tomas Sandstrom
Jan Erixon-hatless Ron Duguay-Paul Cyr

Jari Gronstrand-Michel Petit
Bruce Bell-James Patrick (A)
Norm Maciver-David Shaw

John Vanbiesbrouck
(Bob Froese)


Greg Gilbert-Pat LaFontaine-Alan Kerr
Richard Kromm-Bryan Trottier (A)-Mikko Makela
Derek King-Brent Sutter (C)-Brad Lauer
Dale Henry-Bob Bassen-Randy Wood

Steve Konroyd (A)-Tomas Jonsson
Ken Leiter-Ken Morrow
Jeff Finley-Gerald Diduck

Kelly Hrudey
(Billy Smith)


The tie does nothing to break up the logjam that was the Patrick Division all year long, a tight race that would have a columnist in THN (in memory, it was Dave Molinari) wondering the next year what the tiebreaking procedure would be for a six-way deadlock. The bottom three teams in the Patrick in 1987-88 finished one point apart, with a Pittsburgh tie and a Rangers win setting up John MacLean’s heroics late on that Easter evening.

The Islanders went on to win the division. The Devils sent them home.

Apparently this tape winds up in a cabinet somewhere and doesn’t reappear for 22 1/2 years. But here it is.

And, sorry, it appears it got cut off somehow. This should fix it.

Michael Fornabaio