BOSTON — The 86-year-old rivalry between the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers may not be as intense as it was in its 1970s heyday, but that’s nothing that a playoff series this spring wouldn’t fix.

In a game that featured little of that old-time hatred, the Bruins and Rangers met for the 626th time in their history on Tuesday night. New York emerged with a 3-0 win, building its lead over Boston in the Eastern Conference to nine points.

As the Bruins and Canucks proved last spring, it takes a playoff series to make a rivalry — or, perhaps in the case of Boston and New York, to rekindle one. The Bruins and Rangers haven’t clashed in the postseason in 39 years.

While Boston and New York despised each other as they battled to stay out of the basement of the six-team NHL through the early- and mid-1960s, the rivalry really took off when the teams met in the playoffs in 1970, 1972 and 1973.

Back then, the Rangers were every bit as loathed as the Montreal Canadiens by the Bruins and their fans. And the Rangers returned the favor.

Bruins such as Derek Sanderson and Teddy Green — who had terrorized the Rangers for years — were public enemies in Madison Square Garden.

And Boston especially loved to hate New York’s Brad Park, who had the gall to call the Bruins “a bunch of bloodthirsty animals” in a ghostwritten autobiography. Park, of course, was traded to Boston in 1975, and soon went from enemy to beloved Bruin. Before Park moved over from the dark side, Boston whipped New York twice in the playoffs while winning a pair of Stanley Cups.

The Bruins beat New York in six games in the first round on their way to the Cup in 1970, then did it again in the 1972 Stanley Cup finals. Sticking a finger in New York’s eye, Boston captain Johnny Bucyk paraded the Cup around the Madison Square Garden ice after the Bruins took Game Six.

Near the end of the decade, Mike Milbury waded into the stands in a melee one night in New York and beat a Rangers fan with his own shoe.

One of New England Sports Network (NESN) play-by-play man Jack Edwards’ favorite moments in the Bruins-Ranger rivalry happened during a late-1970s Saturday-afternoon game.

“There was a TV break. It was one of those moments when the Garden was silent. Some leather lung up with the Gallery Gods yells, ‘Hey, (New York brawler Nick) Fotiu, you couldn’t spell ‘cat’ if they spotted you the C and the A.’

“It absolutely brought the house down. Everyone in the building — including Fotiu — could hear this guy bellowing. That’s what makes this rivalry great.”

The last time the Bruins and Rangers met in the postseason was in 1973. That series went down the drain for Boston after New York defenseman Ron Harris blew out Phil Esposito’s knee with a devastating but clean hip check. The Rangers prevailed in five.

Nearly four decades later, the two Original Six enemies are on top, and it won’t take much to stoke up the animosity again. There’s no doubt that a playoff series would heat the rivalry up in a hurry.

“It wouldn’t just be a boil, it would be a froth” if the teams meet this spring, said Edwards.

“That hatred is definitely already there between the cities, so that makes for a good matchup,” said Boston’s Milan Lucic.


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