NEWARK, N.J. --Peter DeBoer believes there's just one difference between those rival teams he faced as a coach in the Ontario Hockey League with the Kitchener Rangers to now as the head man working the bench for the New Jersey Devils.
"The type of emotion that's involved is the same, but the only difference is you have 10 million people here [watching]," DeBoer said during a media conference call on Tuesday afternoon.
DeBoer and several players took the time to speak with the media during an off-day after an emotional 4-1 victory in Game 4 against the New York Rangers on Monday at Prudential Center. The triumph enabled the Devils to even the best-of-seven, 2-2, with Game 5 slated Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
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DeBoer was quick to mention his OHL battles against rivals Guelph, where current Devils assistant coach Dave Barr coached, and London, where former Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter once ruled. Let's face it, though, he'd be hard-pressed to recall a shouting match during a game much like the one he participated in with Rangers coach John Tortorella 6:18 into the third period of Game 4.
It all started after Rangers forward Mike Rupp punched Devils goalie Martin Brodeur with his left hand, triggering a few scuffles on the ice and a verbal confrontation between the two coaches on the bench.
"I think emotion takes over," DeBoer said. "I don't know the word 'defend,' but I took offense at what happened on the ice, and that was my outlet, right or wrong."
Right or wrong, his players certainly took notice.
"It's part of the game and part of playoff hockey, and Pete's been really good to us all playoff long," Brodeur said. "Usually he puts his emotions in check a little bit but at that time of the game, it was probably appropriate for him to step out and have a little conversation. Whatever was said, I don't know, but we know he cares. I think he shows a lot of people that he's really into this just as much as the players."
Devils forward Travis Zajac knows against an archrival, it's tough to sometimes control emotions.
"We play each other so often and every game is a war against [the Rangers]," Zajac said. "For me, in my first year, seeing leaders like [Patrik Elias] and Marty, and seeing the way they competed against that team. It makes it easy to get involved and hate that team."
Zajac said he had no issue with DeBoer's response following Rupp's left-handed chop to Brodeur's chest.
"He's an emotional guy and he wants to win just like us, and it rubs off on us to see how much he cares about the players and his team and about us having success … it makes us feel good," Zajac said.
DeBoer doesn't believe there will be any carryover from Game 4 into Game 5 -- there's just too much at stake. When asked if he thought the extracurricular activity after the whistle would have occurred had the Devils not taken a 3-0 lead, he responded, "No."
The Hudson River rivalry is actually everything DeBoer imagined it would be.
"I think emotion takes over. I don't know the word 'defend,' but I took offense at what happened on the ice, and that was my outlet, right or wrong." -- Devils' coach Peter DeBoer
"It's exactly what I had heard it was, and what I anticipated it would be," DeBoer said. "I'd heard about it and it's lived up to its billing. The most important thing for us is the young guys learning to manage their emotions against a rival like the Rangers. I think they've done a very good job of that."
Devils captain Zach Parise wasn't surprised by DeBoer's reaction to what transpired after the whistle. The teams combined for 48 minutes in penalties in the third period on Monday. The Rangers were assessed seven minors and two misconducts totaling 34 minutes.
"We know how much of a competitor he is and he cares about his players and he cares about winning and he's emotionally involved in the games just as we all are," Parise said. "I think it's great to see when your coach is involved like that and cares like that. I think he's done a great job throughout the playoffs of keeping his cool when things have gone good or bad.
"He's always done a good job of keeping everything even keel and, I don't know, something just happened that pushed him over the edge [in Game 4] and that's fine with us. We know he cares about us and cares about the team."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale