It's safe to say the New York Rangers have had their fair share of ups and downs over the course of the last 20 years. There's been a Stanley Cup championship, an eight-year playoff drought, a couple of Eastern Conference Finals defeats and the eternal revolving door of high-priced free agents.
The self proclaimed "World's Most Famous Arena" has served as a worthy backdrop for the team's roller-coaster ride of the past two decades. But over the course of the ride, there have been moments that stick out in a fan's memory more so than others.
And since happy memories are always more fun to recall, this list of the six most memorable Rangers games of the past 20 years will concentrate on the bright side of recent history.
When the Rangers signed Wayne Gretzky in the summer of 1996, many had hoped that he and longtime friend and teammate Mark Messier could rekindle their Edmonton Magic and give New York its second Stanley Cup of the '90s.
After an ECF appearance in their first season together, Messier bolted for Vancouver in the summer of 1997. The 1997-98 season went on to mark the start of the team's eight-year playoff drought.
But despite the failures of Gretzky's tenure in New York, it was still an honor and a grand spectacle for the greatest player in the sport's history to play his final game in a Rangers uniform on Madison Square Garden ice.
Gretzky found his way onto the scoresheet, assisting on the team's only goal of the evening.
Before the start of the game, the likes of Mark Messier, Mario Lemieux and Glen Sather gathered on the ice for pre-game ceremonies. And at the game's conclusion, Gretz took his final laps before joining the entire Rangers team at center ice for a team picture.
For video documentation of the game's festivities, check out this video.
The Rangers' 2006-07 team was probably their best of the post 2004-05 lockout era, last season notwithstanding. It featured a potent offensive group of Jaromir Jagr, Michael Nylander, Brendan Shannahan and Marty Straka.
Following a 4-0 sweep of the Atlanta Thrashers in the first round, the Rangers would face the top-seeded Buffalo Sabres in the conference semifinals.
Despite the Rangers being full of confidence, they dropped the first two games in Buffalo, but found themselves on home ice for Game 3 on April 29, 2007.
Thanks to Henrik Lundqvist standing on his head, the Rangers escaped regulation tied with Buffalo, 1-1. And after the initial overtime period failed to produce a winner, double-overtime commenced.
With less than four minutes remaining, Nylander sent a pass up to Michal Rozsival at the point; one he took one time and beat Buffalo netminder Ryan Miller with.
What ensued could only be classified as Bedlam at the Garden.
The Rangers carried their momentum into Game 4 where they picked up another huge win, despite eventually losing the series in six games.
Regardless, it was the first playoff win the franchise had in overtime on both home ice since 1997, and it turned what looked to be a short series into a very exciting one.
On March 31, 2004, Mark Messier played his last NHL game.
He was 43, and with the 2004-05 NHL lockout looming, it was clear that the final home game of the 2003-04 season would be the last of "The Messiah's" illustrious career.
Messier missed the previous four games due to injury, but he would not be denied a proper sending off.
Despite the Rangers losing the game 4-3 to the Buffalo Sabres, Messier tallied a goal; one that sent the Rangers' faithful into a frenzy.
At game's end, a teary-eyed Messier took to the ice for what would be his last few laps around Madison Square Garden ice. Waving his hands and bowing to the Garden faithful, Messier and New Yorkers mutually thanked each other for the memories and history they made over the previous decade.
This game captured the sentiments of the entire 2011-12 season for the Rangers.
It showed hockey fans that, even if the Rangers appear to be down and out, they have the persistence, grit and ability to find a way to win.
After squandering an early one-goal lead, the Rangers found themselves down 2-1 very late in the third period. And for a while there, it didn't look like they were too concerned about it.
But Washington forward Joel Ward presented them with a gift in the form of a double minor high-sticking penalty with 21.3 seconds remaining in regulation.
It may be cliche, but the rest is history.
After Richards' heroics and Marc Staal's game-winner, the Rangers somehow found themselves up three games to two in the series. They eventually advanced to the conference finals after winning game seven on home ice five days later.
It's funny when a man—and we're talking about Stephane Matteau here—can score 21 points in 85 regular-season games, and 10 points in 32 playoff games in a team's sweater, yet still be considered a legend.
His goal in Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals will literally immortalize him in New York Rangers history for as long as the organization exists (and probably even after that.)
After going down 3-1 in the series to their bitter rivals across the Hudson, Mark Messier single-handedly won game six in New Jersey, and set the Rangers up for a monumental Game 7 victory on home ice.
But it's never that easy in New York, is it?
Regulation ended in a 1-1 score, and it would stay that way until double overtime, mostly due in part by Mike Richter's godlike performance.
And then it happened. A mishandle by the Devils defensemen in their own zone, which led to a seemingly innocent wrap around and there you have it: the most memorable goal in Rangers history.
Fifty-four years is a very, very long time.
Taking into consideration the lackluster two decades the Rangers and their fans have endured, there's no doubt that the contest that took place on June 14, 1994 would be the most memorable.
But despite it being the night the Cup finally returned home to New York, it was actually a really good game.
Mike Richter was on top of his game once again, and it was only fitting that the man brought in to finish the job, Mark Messier, would pick up what would be the game winning goal in the second period.
And even in traditional Rangers fashion, fans and players alike had to endure a final defensive zone faceoff with 1.6 seconds remaining. But Craig McTavish won the draw and the Garden faithful erupted, letting out the groans of 54 years of frustration.
The culmination of it all was that immortal scene at center ice, when a much younger Gary Bettman handed the Cup to captain Mark Messier, who's smile captured the sentiments of every Rangers fan: "Now I Can Die in Peace."
The most memorable moment of the franchise's most memorable game—and not just of the past two decades, but of all time.