No Rangers book or in this case, a Website would ever
be complete without mentioning Lester Patrick’s stint in goal – in the
Stanley Cup Finals.
The regular season for the Blueshirts showed a
decline from their inaugural season when they finished first in the
division. In the 1927-28 season they were just 19-16-9. In the first round
of the playoffs, they eliminated the Pittsburgh Pirates in a two-game
series outscoring them 6-4.
The 2nd round had them against a strong
Bruins team who they also beat in a two-game series outscoring them 5-2.
It was on to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise
The Rangers showed greatness in the playoffs but the
one opponent they could not defeat was the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Due
to the circus being set up at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers were
forced to play every game of the finals series against the Montreal
Maroons at the Forum.
In the first game the Rangers were flat and lost the
opening game 2-0. But the 2nd game would wind up being the
turning point of the series and a golden moment in NHL history. Lorne
Chabot who provided stellar goaltending throughout the regular season
would need to step up even further. It appeared he would do just that as
the first period ended scoreless.
It was halfway through the 2nd period and
both goalies were in a duel as the score remained even at zeroes. Lorne
Chabot was struck in the left eye from a shot by Maroons sniper Nels
Stewart. Chabot was unable to continue and taken out on a stretcher. The
referee gave Lester 10 minutes to find a replacement goalie. Alex Connell,
an All Star goalie for the Ottawa Senators was present but Maroons coach
Eddie Gerard balked at the idea of using him.
“Are you crazy?” Gerard replied. “That guy’s
Another goalie by the name of Hugh McCormick had a good season in the
minors for a London, Ontario team. He was also present, and Lester asked
Gerard if he could use him instead.
“Nah. I don’t want you using him, either.”
Then both Bill Cook and Frank Boucher took Lester
aside and said, “Looks like you’re going to have to do this
Lester said, “I’m no goalie. Never have been. But
I’ll take Chabot’s place if you guys promise to back-check like hell
and clear all the rebounds.”
All the Rangers players watched in awe as their coach
and general manager put on Chabot’s bulky equipment. However he had a
hard time putting on his skates so his teammates suggested that he put on
an extra pair of socks.
“And don’t forget your jock! They exclaimed.
Out Lester came with his bulky equipment, big
skates….and his jock. The Montreal Forum crowd laughed and then
applauded knowing it would take a lot of courage for the old man to do
something like this. Lester knew it too. If his team lost this game, they
would be down 2-0 in the best of five series, and their Stanley Cup hopes
would be out the window. The second period ended scoreless.
The Rangers got a break 30 seconds into the third period when Bill Cook
fired a long shot that eluded Maroon’s goalie and future Hall of Famer,
Clint Benedict. The Ranger held the lead for most of the period until Nels
Steward deked out both defensemen. He faked a shot, and Lester went down.
Nels calmly tucked the puck into the open side of the net and ended
Lester’s shutout bid with 5:40 to play and tieing the game at one goal
apiece. Nobody scored in the final minutes and the game went into
The Maroons came at Lester hard, firing off three quick shots but he
stopped all of them. Clint Benedict was just as good on the other end,
making three saves of his own. After the Rangers had tried winning it,
Montreal came back with a fury and amassed a good passing play to start an
odd-man rush. But stalwart defenseman Ching Johnson stole the puck. He saw
clear ice ahead of him and raced forward. Out of the corner of his eye he
saw Frank Boucher breaking in. Ching made a clear pass to Boucher who
lifted the puck over Benedict. Red light, Game over!
Lester was mobbed by his teammates. Bill Cook noticed beads of sweat
dripping down the coach’s face and complimented him on his “acrobatic
performance.” The Rangers asked him if he would stage an encore in game
“No way boys. It was all I could do to survive tonight."
For the remainder of the series the Rangers received goalie Joe Miller
from the rival New York Americans. Miller was a terrible goalie and had a
dismal 24-90 record in four NHL seasons. The Americans hoped that by
giving the Rangers this “bum” they would not win the cup and they
could get some revenge on their heated rival. Boy, were they wrong.
Joe Miller fashioned a 2-1 record with one shutout and a miserly GAA of
1.00. Boucher scored the game winning goal in the fifth and deciding game
of the Finals to give the Rangers their first ever cup. Joe Miller was
returned to the Americans and struggled mightily. But his performance in
the Finals is seldom mentioned when the story is told and retold. All the
attention is given to Lester Patrick, whose outstanding accomplishment
turned the tide..
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