NEW YORK -- The poke of the stick into a part of your body that might not respond well to that sort of thing. The hit slightly after the whistle designed to get your attention. The well-timed insult that gets under your skin and causes you to lose your cool.
Everyone knows the game of Rangers irritator Sean Avery -- but that doesn't make it any less irksome if you're in the wrong state of mind.
Just ask Devils star Ilya Kovalchuk.
With his team trailing the Rangers 3-1 and only 2:16 left in the third period, Kovalchuk found himself a couple of feet from Avery during a whistle. A tap of the stick and a few well-chosen words later, Kovalchuk was wailing away on Avery as officials tried to separate the pair.
They each received four minutes for roughing, effectively ending their nights with very little time left in the game. It left the Devils without their biggest offensive threat with the game on the line, and the Rangers without, well, a guy who gets paid to do just what he did to Kovalchuk.
"We obviously know the history with Avery and I think it's a smart play on his part to take Kovy out with two minutes left in the game," Devils forward Patrik Elias said after his team's 3-1 loss. "That's an advantage for them, obviously."
It was a quick lesson for Kovalchuk, who has faced Avery many times in his career but never before in the context of the heated rivalry between the Rangers and Devils.
"He's always talks. It's part of the game," Kovalchuk said. "That time I should stay away from that, but we have a lot of great players who can do some damage in front. I heard it's a big rivalry, and now I know it."
Devils coach Jacques Lemaire wasn't upset with Kovalchuk for losing his cool.
"You got Avery that talks to the players all the time," Lemaire said. "I don't know what he's saying, but it's got to be not too nice for the players to get really aggravated by his comments."
Does Lemaire think trash-talking should result in a two-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct?
"Should be," he said. "Definitely."
Is Lemaire's only course of action to have tough guy Andrew Peters, who fought Brandon Prust twice on Saturday, go after the annoyance that is Avery?
"He won't fight Peters," Lemaire said.
So if Avery won't fight guys like Peters, what can be done to get Avery off his game? If you ask Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, who has seen these antics up close and often in his career, all you can do is acknowledge what Avery does and take a little satisfaction when someone like Kovalchuk lays a beating on the pest.
"I think especially in the time of the game, for him to be on the ice, he was there for one reason -- to get Kovy off his game," Brodeur said. "It worked, but he paid a pretty good price. I was right there watching."