Ryan Carter after his fight with Stu Bickel
There is nothing like a good old fashion hockey brawl to start a game and put everyone in a good mood for some hard hitting hockey. And a Rangers game at the Garden against the New Jersey Devils can't start these days without a fight, or two, or three kicking off the festivities. Because sometime this season Devils' coach, Peter DeBoer, decided that throwing punches, the more the better, is the best way to get his team motivated to play the New York Rangers.
First, a review of the bad blood and haymaker history. Back on December 20th at the Garden, Mike Rupp and Cam Janssen squared off three seconds after the puck dropped. Rupp won that fight by a wide margin. Lundqvist and the Rangers ended up winning the game, 4-1.
On February 7th at the Garden, the Devils decided to kick the intensity up a notch. This time two fights started at the two second mark of the first period. Again, Mike Rupp got the decision over Cam Janssen. And Eric Boulton squared off with Brandon Prust. Boulton won that fight. New Jersey ended up winning the game and shutout the Rangers, 1-0. They also handed Henrik Lundqvist one of his few losses versus them.
So, you can see where this Devils' logic is going. If two fights starting a game results in a win, and one fight equals a loss, then the more fights the better.
The February 27th game at the Garden got off to a slow start. The fights didn't get going until the 2nd period. Eric Boulton had the edge over Prust at 16:52 of the 2nd. David Clarkson thumped Dubinsky in their third meeting at 19:27 of the second. The Rangers and Lundqvist win 2-1.
The action picked up on March 6th at the Prudential Center. Ryan Carter and Dubinsky dropped their gloves at 3:03 of the first period. Carter then hammered Dubinsky. That was followed by the Rangers' John Scott getting the better of Cam Janssen at the 12:32 mark of the first period. It was Scott's third fight, and third win, against Janssen. The Devils won the game 4-1, again defeating Lundqvist. It was also the start of a three game losing streak for the Blueshirts.
The tone has been set to that of a fight ring bell this season. Last night's game had both teams come out swinging. Swinging to knock each others block off. In a move clearly orchestrated by DeBoer to start a rumble, the Devils deployed their goon squad to start the game. Tortorella felt compelled to match fire with fire, by starting the Rangers' tough guys.
So just 3 seconds into the game, three fights erupted: Ryan Carter vs Stu Bickel, Eric Boulton vs Michael Rupp, and Cam Janssen vs Brandon Prust. When it was all over in less than two minutes, they were scraping Carter's blood off the ice as he retired to the dressing room for some wound dressing.
Two of the three fights were grudge rematches. Eric Boulton must think that he's due to win one eventually over Mike Rupp. But, no such luck. This was Boulton's fifth fight with Rupp since February 2008, and his fifth loss. Cam Janssen and Brandon Prust have now battled six times going back to their OHL days in 2004. Their first scrap back in February 2004, set a high standard. Prust introduced himself by cleanly tagging Janssen and winning their first fight. Since then Janssen has had the upper hand, and this most recent tilt currently looks like it will be voted a draw.
So, other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play, you might ask? The play, the actual hockey was as hard hitting and fierce as I've seen all year. Not pretty, but you couldn't take your eyes off it for fear of missing some wanton mayhem. The Rangers were credited with 41 hits, the Devils with 23.
The big news is that the Rangers finally scored on the power play. The smallest guy on the team, Zuccarello has to go to the net and put away a rebound for them to score. The experiment of putting Brian Boyle in front of the net on the power play looks like it is over. Boyle had only 37 seconds of power play time. The Massachusetts Spruce has proven that his limbs don't work so well when asked to wack at anything moving faster than a bark beetle. So better to put the small guy near the net. Right?
Seeing Brandon Prust get smacked into the boards late in the 3rd period by Adam Henrique was not good. Hope he is all right.
Good things: seeing other guys like Dubinsky and Stepan score. Dubinsky played one of his best games of the year. He got 17:57 minutes of ice time, which might be a high for him. The King is back as master of his domain, despite letting a couple sneak in over his right shoulder. If Lundqvist does his standard excellent royal job and limits the other team to 2 or less, if the defense doesn't goof too bad, then the Rangers have dibs on winning the game, right?
Hearing chants of Maaarty, Maaarty, and sending Brodeur home a loser, sweet stuff.
The Rangers have clinched a playoff spot. Now maybe everyone, except Mike Rupp, should start clinching in fights to keep themselves in one piece for the playoffs.