And the Rangers could thank Richter for earning them a point as New York played Edmonton to a 1-1 tie on Friday night in an NHL season opener.
"He was brilliant," said Rangers coach John Muckler after watching Richter make 29 saves. "He saved the game for us. He's the guy. No question about it."
Gretzky led the Oilers to four Stanley Cups in the '80s before finishing his unparalleled 20-year career in New York at the end of last season.
The simple blue banner bearing Gretzky's name, number and the team's oil drop logo was lifted to the ceiling following an eye-popping light show and video extravaganza highlighted by Gretzky's greatest goals being replayed on the Jumbotron.
Then Richter put on a show of his own.
Richter was at his best in the third period, not giving up a goal as the Oilers outshot the Rangers 13-2.
"(Richter) had his A game," Oilers captain Doug Weight said. "He played awesome. He steals points from time to time."
"It was an up-and-down game. The momentum switched a lot. Both goalies came up huge. That's why it was a 1-1 tie."
Ryan Smyth opened the scoring for the Oilers at 1:57 of the second period, then Tim Taylor tied it for the Rangers less than five minutes later.
Smyth, who signed a one-year contract with the Oilers earlier in the day, burst in down the right side, cut towards the front of the net and beat Richter to the glove side.
Taylor scored when he was left alone in front of Oilers goalie Tommy Salo and converted a sharp pass from Valeri Kamensky.
Richter's best save came when he foiled Todd Marchant on a short-handed breakaway midway through the third period.
"They're so fast," Richter said of the Oilers. "They caught us on (line) changes and were able to catch us on odd-man rushes. But I thought we did a good job hustling to get back."
Salo finished with 21 saves.
The game featured the first regular-season overtime to be played with four skaters per side. Each team had two shots on goal in the extra period.
"It's exciting," Richter said of the new overtime format. "Every team has a few players who can handle the puck. I thought it was great."
Oilers coach Kevin Lowe also praised the new system.
"I really like it," Lowe said. "I think it's going to be a great asset, once teams learn to play it. If you skate the way we do and move the puck like we do, you're going to create chances."
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