NEWARK, N.J. -- For the first time during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the New York Rangers became unraveled, and no one embodied the frustration reaching a boiling point the way Mike Rupp did during the third period of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final on Monday night at Prudential Center.
With the New Jersey Devils leading 3-0 in a game they would win 4-1 to even the best-of-seven series, Rupp was assessed a two-minute minor for roughing Peter Harrold. As Rupp was being escorted away by a linesman, he fired a gloved punch that hit Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur in the upper chest and rode up into his mask.
That wasn't the end of it. Steve Bernier, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound forward of the Devils, skated to the defense of Brodeur, only to be tossed to the ice by the 6-5, 243-pound Rupp like a rag doll. When the dust settled, Rupp was assessed 14 minutes in penalties, teammate Stu Bickel picked up two minutes for roughing, and the Devils' Ryan Carter picked up a 10-minute misconduct and two minutes for roughing.
All Brodeur received was the knowledge he has a pretty strong jaw.
"I'm a tough guy," Brodeur said jokingly. "It stung me a little bit. I didn't know what to do, really. It hurt a little bit in my jaw. He hit me in the chest and his fist kind of went up in my mask. It surprised me more than anything, but now I know I can take a punch. I never got punched like that in my career. I'm just happy I didn't get hurt on it."
Brodeur said he was pretty surprised that Rupp, who scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final for Brodeur and the Devils against Anaheim, would come after him like that.
"I was minding my own business for real," Brodeur said. "I never really yap at anybody, especially not him -- he's so big. He just kind of turned around and was a little pumped up and wanted to get somebody and I was the first target. That's that. It's part of the game I guess. It's a little unfortunate but somebody has a right to go out and sucker you like that."
Rupp was not made available to the media after the game.
Following that wild scrum near Brodeur's net, the coaches had a heated exchange similar to the one that took place in the final meeting of the regular season when a six-man brawl broke out after the opening faceoff. On Monday, Tortorella and the Devils' Peter DeBoer fired barbs at each other yet again.
Both coaches were mum afterward about the incident.
"This isn't about John and I," DeBoer said. "This is about the guys on the ice. So I don't have anything to say about that."
"I'm not going to answer any questions on that," Tortorella said. "Thank you."
The Rangers took 34 minutes in penalties during the final 17:23 of the third period, many of which were born out of frustration. Some of the penalties came late when the game was all but over, including a slashing penalty from Carl Hagelin and a cross-checking call against Michael Del Zotto.
As the game slipped away from the Rangers, they became as undisciplined as they've ever been during this postseason, but they don't consider it a problem that will spill into Game 5 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
"It's normal playoff hockey. It happens," Callahan said. "You see it in every series. That's part of the game."
"We just want to keep on playing and keep competing," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "That stuff happens sometimes."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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