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Rangers, Devils begin with a brawl

by Dave Lozo

NEW YORK -- It didn't take long for the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils to drop the gloves at Madison Square Garden on Monday night, and just about everyone was willing to do so.

Three seconds after the opening faceoff, three fights took place simultaneously: the Rangers' Stu Bickel, Mike Rupp and Brandon Prust fought the Devils' Ryan Carter, Eric Boulton and Cam Janssen, respectively. Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador received a 10-minute misconduct as well for trying to pull Bickel off Carter while the two were on the ice with Bickel still throwing punches.

A punch by Bickel drew blood from Carter, resulting in ice workers to clean the sheet before play could resume.

Following the melee, Rangers coach John Tortorella could be seen screaming at Devils coach Peter DeBoer, although Tortorella would not address the incident after the game.

A similar incident happened in a game in New Jersey this season where the Rangers started their tough guys, something DeBoer pointed out to reporters outside the visiting locker room after the game.

"I guess in John’s world you can come into our building and start your tough guys, but we can’t do the same in here," DeBoer said. "He’s either got short-term memory loss or he’s a hypocrite. So it's one of the other."

Just 1:08 later, Brandon Dubinsky gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead with his eighth goal of the season.

"It's high marks for those guys," Tortorella said of his combatants. "I'm thrilled how they responded and I'm even more happy as far as how the team responded. I think that we lost some of that in some games when stuff like that happens. The other guys that don't walk in those guys' shoes and have to handle that stuff they have to handle, the other guys need to their things. I thought our guys did that. I think that's very important in those types of situations."

Dubinsky, who lined up as a defenseman for the faceoff to allow Bickel to move up to fight Carter, said the rumble was like nothing he'd seen since his days with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.

"I think they were trying to send a message, and it was just us answering the message," Dubinsky said. "We don't want to do that. I think that’s stupid and something that I saw a lot in the Western Hockey League. I've never seen that in the NHL. Kudos to our guys stepping up. It takes big (hearts) to do that."

As the visiting team, the Devils get to declare their starting lineup first with the Rangers countering. Rupp said he wasn't prepared for a six-man rumble, that he was just preparing for his fight with Boulton.

"When you get out there in that situation, all you're thinking about is the guy across the line from you," Rupp said. "I really didn't know those other guys would be fighting or what the deal was."

In their first meeting at MSG this season Feb. 7, Janssen fought Rupp and Boulton fought Prust two seconds after the opening faceoff. The Devils went on to win that game 1-0.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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