-- By refusing to give in to his desires Monday night, Sean Avery
got what he most desired.
Avery played a central role in a 3-0 win by his New York Rangers
against the New Jersey Devils
, but he did so by staying out of the trouble that has so often found him in the past.
"I know there was a lot of anticipation beforehand," Avery said. "I just went in the same way I have for a lot of the games and just tried to get focused, knowing what I have to do and knowing what Torts expects of me and that's it."
Avery's discipline was appreciated by teammates that were hoping the two points on offer would be enough motivation for Avery to stay within the team concept.
"Sean did a real good job of staying focused and he played a really good game," said Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist
, who authored a 38-save shutout to continue his own personal mastery of the Devils.
After Monday night's victory, Lundqvist is now 14-2-4 against New Jersey's Martin Brodeur
in regular-season play.
On any other night, Lundqvist's brilliance would be the stuff of headlines, but Monday night it was relegated to sidebar material by the return of Avery to the blood feud between the Rangers and the Devils.
Avery cemented his place as a central figure during last season's first-round playoff matchup as his face-guarding ploy against Brodeur became the defining moment of New York's five-game upset of their cross-Hudson River rivals.
The fact that Brodeur refused to shake Avery's hand when the series was finished and Avery responded by making fun of Brodeur's weight in public comments only added to the feud ; a feud that was thought to be a thing of the past when Avery walked away from the Rangers as a free agent this summer, signing a long-term deal with the Dallas Stars
But Avery ended up back with the Rangers after Dallas parted ways with him in the wake of some ill-advised comments Avery made about the personal lives of other NHL players.
New York claimed Avery on re-entry waivers in early March and, amazingly, Avery found himself Monday night rejoining one of the most-storied rivalries in the NHL.
Avery refused to take center stage through his antics in his return to the rivalry, despite all the speculation to the contrary.
Instead, he forced the Devils to take penalties through his refusal to engage with several Devils seeking out the Rangers winger late in the game.
"He wasn't much of a factor tonight," said Brodeur, who nonetheless took a few chops at Avery as he straddled the crease on several early shifts. "Not today anyway. What happened at the end of the game was because the game was out of hand on our side."
Actually, Avery appeared to be a factor Monday night, only it was in positive ways instead of the usual mixed bag Avery has become famous for delivering.
"I know there was a lot of anticipation beforehand. I just went in the same way I have for a lot of the games and just tried to get focused, knowing what I have to do and knowing what Torts expects of me and that's it." -- Sean Avery
On this night, he assisted on the goal by Ryan Callahan
that made the game 3-0 late in the second and he took the body, legally, throughout the game. He had three shots on goal and he finished a plus-1.
Plus, his calm in the face of the Devils' storm made the visitors look out-of-sync. Midway through the third period, New Jersey's David Clarkson
decided it was time to exact revenge. Only problem was Avery wasn't interested, refusing to engage as Clarkson rag-dolled him around the ice.
For his part in the affair, Clarkson got a double-minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct, while Avery received a roughing minor.
"It certainly takes discipline," Avery said of his non-combatant role. "You fight for your team and you fight for your teammates. At that point, I didn't need to fight for either of them, so there was no point."
You can bet that quote will get back to Rangers coach John Tortorella soon and it should bring a smile to the face of the demanding Tortorella, who was one of Avery's biggest critics earlier this season.
"He's making steps in the right direction now," the coach said of Avery. "I think it's old news now. Sean Avery
is a part of this hockey team. He is a disciplined player for us; an effective player for us.
"I just want to make sure to keep Sean within the team and not the team and Sean, and Sean has definitely bought into that. So, I hope we can move by all the stories and speculation about what is going to happen with Sean. He has bought into playing under a team concept and he is a part of this club. He played very well tonight."