Matt Rempe, Rangers open game vs. Devils in wild line brawl

NHL: New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a page out of hockey’s past, the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils opened their game Wednesday at Madison Square Garden with a line brawl that featured all 10 skaters on the ice engaged in fights. It also led to mass ejections and a shouting match between coaches Peter Laviolette of New York and New Jersey’s Travis Green.

Topping the bill, to no one’s surprise, was a heavyweight tilt between Matt Rempe and Kurtis MacDermid, that was a long time coming. MacDermid tried to goad Rempe into a fight the last time these teams played March 11 and then called the 6-foot-8 rookie out after Rempe received a match penalty for elbowing Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler.

Rempe was suspended four games for that hit and Siegenthaler missed time with a concussion.

Rempe and MacDermid were speaking before the opening face-off and the Rangers forward moved backwards before the puck dropped to prepare for the fight. He and MacDermid sized each other up and then began exchanging big blows. They were finally separated when too exhausted to continue.

Despite bleeding from the mouth, Rempe barked at the Devils bench and then waved his arms to further pump up the Garden crowd after the bout.

Related: Former Rangers enforcer understands why fans ’embrace’ Matt Rempe

Matt Rempe, Rangers engage in wild line brawl against Devils

NHL: New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Though Rempe-MacDermid was the Main Event, it wasn’t the only fight. In fact, Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey and Curtis Lazar of the Devils were the first players to begin fighting, after just two seconds elapsed off the game clock.

That became an important fact because the other players who started fighting afterward were all assessed game misconducts and ejected from the game. So, each team was down to 14 skaters. Only Vesey and Lazar were allowed to return after serving their five-minute majors.

The Rangers lost two of their top defenseman since Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller were among those assessed game misconducts. New York also lost Barclay Goodrow and Rempe. New Jersey had to play the rest of the game without defensemen Kevin Bahl and John Marino and forwards Chris Tierney and MacDermid.

Rempe has now been ejected from each of the three games he’s played against the Devils this season. On Feb. 22 at Prudential Center, Rempe totaled 17 penalty minutes and was kicked out of the game for a hit on Devils forward Nathan Bastian. And on March 11 at MSG, Rempe was assessed a match penalty for the elbow against Siegenthaler.

Rempe played three games after his suspension concluded without incident and with limited ice time. He was then scratched the past three games.

“When Matt comes back, we want him to play his game. It’s that simple,” Laviolette stated Tuesday after practice.

The fireworks continued at 4:27 of the first period when Rangers forward Will Cuylle got into a spirited fight with Dawson Mercer. Cuylle received a two-minute minor for boarding Brendan Smith and five minutes for fighting. Mercer received two minutes for instigating, five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct.

The Rangers went on to win 4-3, rallying from a goal down in the third period to sweep the four-game season series.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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