Rangers Recall: Fight Night at the Garden

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

All the talk leading up to Wednesday’s meeting between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils was centered around whether Matt Rempe would fight Kurtis MacDermid.

While they did go soon after the opening draw, Devils forward Curtis Lazar jumped Jimmy Vesey to beat them to the punch. That was followed by Rangers center Barclay Goodrow grabbing defenseman Kevin Bahl, and John Marino unwisely tangling with the much stronger K’Andre Miller. Eventually, Chris Tierney and Rangers captain Jacob Trouba decided not to be left out of the party, and all 10 skaters on the ice started to brawl.

As the players paraded to the penalty box, Rangers’ coach Peter Laviolette and Devils interim coach Travis Green got into a heated exchange. Finally, the dust settled, leaving the referees to rule that Lazar and Vesey was the first fight, leading to the ejections of the other eight players for secondary fighting.

“Our guys were reacting to what was happening on the ice,” said Laviolette, who appeared to blame Green for what took place. “I thought all five of them did a fantastic job … Coaches, players, there’s obviously a thing between the two teams and emotions get in there.”

Things stayed testy after Rangers’ rookie Will Cuylle hit Brendan Smith from behind, and was jumped by Dawson Mercer. All in all, the teams combined for 166 penalty minutes (88 for the Devils and 78 for the Rangers).

By the way, the Rangers rallied with two goals in the third period to sweep the regular-season series with a 4-3 victory.

Related: Matt Rempe and Kurtis MacDermid lead brawl at the Garden

Rangers Recall: Fighting for each other

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

The last time these teams played on March 11, MacDermid chased Rempe around trying to make him answer for a hit on Nathan Bastian that left the Devils’ forward hurt and bloodied. At the time of that incident (February 22), MacDermid wasn’t even on the Devils; he was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche on March 1 in response, knowing they had two more games against the Blueshirts.

In that contest, Rempe ignored MacDermid’s requests to fight and was later ejected for an elbow to the head of Jonas Siegenthaler, earning a four-game suspension. This infuriated MacDermid, who called out the rookie in a postgame rant.

“After a hit like that, it kind of goes without saying you should answer the bell and be a man about it,” MacDermid said. “The game goes on and he throws another hit like that … There’s a right way to go about it things and a wrong way. I kind of lost a lot of respect for him tonight.”

Rempe was apologetic for the hit to Siegenthaler’s head, claiming he was trying to brace himself going into the boards. At 6-foot-8, it doesn’t take much for his elbow to be at someone else’s eye-level. However, there was no way he was going to let those comments slide.

The kid and the vet danced with each other for about a minute, each landing several big blows refusing to relent. MacDermid got his pound of flesh and Rempe continues to live up to his tough reputation.

“We both figured we were gonna go,” a much calmer MacDermid said postgame. “I’m always going to have a lot of respect for him. He’s a young kid just trying to do his thing to stay in the League and I understand that. He’s a big, tough, strong kid.”

New York and New Jersey are no strangers to brawls, as these two teams engaged in a similar situation back on March 19, 2012. However, in that contest only six of the 10 skaters on the ice had a go. Of course, the Rangers and Devils had a bench-clearing brawl at the end of Game 6 in their 1992 playoff series, which New York won in seven games.

As for Rempe, he’s become a legend in this rivalry after being ejected in all three games in his career against the Devils. How’s this for a stat line? 3 GP, +1, 47 PIM, 5:01 TOI.

Brawl could’ve been avoided

Green knew exactly what he was doing by starting MacDermid and Lazar. The former is a pure enforcer, and the latter has been known to mix it up on occasion. Being the home team, Laviolette gets last change, and had little choice but to respond with some of his tougher players opposite that group.

Despite Green’s plead of ignorance as to why Laviolette was so angry with what transpired, he basically justified his counterpart’s feelings.

“None of this would have happened, which we all know why it did happen tonight,” Green referenced Rempe’s choice not to fight in their last meeting. “None of it would have happened if something happened the game before. It was obvious that they didn’t want it to happen that game. I have no idea why Peter would have been upset? That’s not on me why he’s upset.”

Laviolette responded to questions about his argument with Green by citing emotions and the heat of the moment. However, he concluded in a manner that implied otherwise.

“How’s that for vague?”

What the starting Rangers players did on the ice and how their coach responded was not lost on anyone in the locker room.

“‘Lavi’ has our backs just as much as we do each others, and we have his,” defenseman Adam Fox said after playing nearly 30 minutes. “We weren’t going out there to make a mockery of the game. They were looking for a response, so he was just having our backs.”

At the end of the day, Rempe and MacDermid would’ve found a spot to go in the match. By starting with that lineup, it was evident that the Devils wanted to get things going, even if no one expected an all-out brawl.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

Mentioned in this article:

More About: