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On This Date in Sports December 23, 1979 Bruins Climb the Glass

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It’s Festivus celebration, as members of the Boston Bruins climb over the glass at Madison Square and begin brawling with fans moments after a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers. The game had a dramatic ending as Gerry Cheevers made a great save on a breakaway by Phil Esposito. As the players left the ice, the teams got in a shoving match leading fan to grab a stick, which ignited the brawl.

T ’was two nights before Christmas, and at the Garden, the Bruins and Rangers were in action. The Boston Bruins were coming off a frustrating postseason ending as an extra man on the ice cost them a chance to end the dynasty of the Montreal Canadiens and led to the firing of Coach Don Cherry. The Bruins were off to a solid start under new coach Fred Creighton as they played on a Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, holding a record of 18-9-5. The Rangers, meanwhile coming off a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Finals were a mediocre 16-14-5 under Fred Shero.

The Rangers were in control most of the night as Mario Marois gave them a lead in the first period. After Rick Middleton scored the tying goal in the second period for Boston, the Rangers got goals from Don Murdoch and Anders Hedberg to take a 3-1 lead into the second intermission. However, late in the second period Dean Talafous was called for hooking. Early in the third Ulf Nilsson was called for tripping, giving the Bruins a 5-on-3 power play. They would take full advantage as Terry O’Reilly, and Bobby Lalonde scored one minute apart to even the score. With six and a half minutes left, Boston took their first lead of the game on a goal by Stan Jonathan. The Bruins 4-3 lead stood, as the Rangers were forced to pull goalie John Davidson in an attempt to tie the game. Raymond Borque made a rookie mistake leaving the blue line for a shot at the open goal. However, Ron Greschner started a quick desperation rush to Phil Esposito, who was along on the goalie in the closing seconds. Gerry Cheevers made a great save on the former Bruins’ MVP as time ran out on New York, in a 4-3 Bruins win.

After the game, as Phil Esposito broke his stick in frustration and made his way to the locker, the Bruins and Rangers got into a heated shoving match. It centered around John Davidson and Ulf Nilsson fighting with Al Second of the Bruins. As the players were separated, a fan reached over and tried to grab Jonathan’s stick, taking a swing at Bruins’ goal scorer. Seeing this led several Bruins led by Terry O’Reilly, Peter McNab, and Mike Milbury to climb the glass and take on the Ranger fans, particularly the fan who reached over the glass and started the fight. Things got ugly right way was Milbury began hitting a fan with his own shoe. Nearly all of the Bruins climbed into the stands before security was able to break up the melee.

As the Bruins retreated to their locker, 300 fans surrounded their team bus, making a quick exit impossible from the Garden. Eventually, the fans were dispersed, and the dust settled. Several fans were charged with disorderly conduct. Terry O’Reilly was suspended eight games while Milbury and McNabb were suspended for six games. All three players also were fined $500 as the glass around the ice was raised in subsequent seasons.