NEW YORK – If Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal between the Rangers and Senators is any indication, this series may turn out to be even nastier than the Flyers-Penguins bloodbath.
In the process, the Senators pushed and shoved their way past the Rangers. They tied Game 2 with 4:37 left when Nick Foligno swatted a loose puck past Henrik Lundqvist. The winning goal came quickly in overtime, only 77 seconds into sudden death when Chris Neil sent a rebound into the net.
The series is tied at one game apiece. Game 3 is in Ottawa on Monday night.
Before the puck was dropped, there was every indication things were going to get nasty when the Senators decided to start with Neil, Zenon Konopka, and Matt Carkner. The Rangers answered with Brandon Prust, Brandon Dubinsky, Stu Bickel, and Mike Rupp.
There were no staged fights, as the Senators forwards skated right to the bench as soon as the puck was dropped. But 2:15 later, Carkner took a run at Boyle, got him to the ground, and repeatedly sucker-punched the Rangers antagonist, presumably in retaliation for shots Boyle gave Senators star defenseman Erik Karlsson in Game One.
The first player into the pile was the Rangers’ Dubinsky, who, along with Carkner, was ejected presumably for being the third man into the fight. As he exited, Dubinsky picked up a rinkside Gatorade cooler and smashed it to the ground in anger.
“Our guy’s trying to protect his teammate and gets kicked out too. Tough one,” said defenseman Marc Staal. “Dubi’s big for us. It was tough to see him get kicked out so early in the game. The guys up front handled themselves well. We played pretty solid up there.”
Boyle refused comment after the game on the altercation.
The physicality didn’t stop there, as Chris Phillips elbowed Ryan Callahan late in the first, and Carl Hagelin elbowed Daniel Alfredsson in the head in the second, earning a five-minute major and a Sunday afternoon hearing with NHL Vice President of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan.
“In a series grudges get made, things get nasty,” Staal said. “It’s what happens. Like I said before, we initiate the physical play and we’ll continue to do that and go right after them.”
Alfredsson did not return, and Senators coach Paul MacLean did not provide a post-game update on his captain.
“Not going to talk about it,” said a terse John Tortorella after the game. “I don’t think we lose [Hagelin] for a game or two. If we lose Hagelin for a game or two, Phillips should be a game or two [for his hit on Callahan].”
Regardless of what Shanahan decides, the Rangers now know Ottawa can play the physical game, too. In fact, that was one of the bigger questions coming into the series. Would Ottawa play that style?
“Everything got raised,” Boyle said. “They were going to come out and try to be physical, they were, and I think we matched it.”
“That’s playoff hockey,” said Brandon Prust. “It’s very physical. We’ve played that style of game all year. It’s nothing really new for us.”