NEW YORK (AP) -New York Rangers coach John Tortorella stood up for one of his players when he got into a confrontation with a fan that drew a suspension for a playoff game, replacement coach Jim Schoenfeld said Sunday.
Schoenfeld, an interim assistant coach who doubles as the club's assistant general manager, will step in for a critical playoff game against the Washington Capitals. Tortorella was given a one-game ban Saturday for squirting water and tossing a water bottle into the crowd at Washington during Friday's 4-0 loss to the Capitals.
That cut New York's lead in the series to 3-2.
"I know the heart of the guy and I know the thing that triggered him," Schoenfeld said. "It wasn't any sling to him, and there were many. It was what was said about one of his players.
"It's easy to say you've got to be in control, you've got to keep it in check, you've got to turn the other way. There are rules, but there is a certain part of your being when you're a coach. It's just like being a parent, and there are certain things you'll put up with when people slander your kids and there is a certain line people cross. That's what happened with Torts.
"You can say what you want to Torts ... call him whatever you want. He'll tell you what to do with your horse, but he's OK with that. Don't get down on the people he cares about. He will fight for them, and that's what he did."
Tortorella had to be out of the Rangers dressing room by noon, but was permitted to watch the game from Madison Square Garden. He was forbidden to have any contact with the team until the game was over.
At 6:33 of the third period Friday, Tortorella got into a verbal confrontation with a fan behind the bench. A video replay showed the coach heaving a green water bottle into the crowd. Tortorella then grabbed forward Aaron Voros' stick and held it high, waving it in the fan's direction.
"He obviously feels bad," Schoenfeld said. "He feels that he has presented a distraction that the team could do without. It should be said that the passion, the fire and the leadership that Tortorella has brought to the team ... he took a team that was dead in the water when he arrived.
"Without the work of John Tortorella this incident wouldn't have happened because we wouldn't have made the playoffs. That's a fact."
Schoenfeld, Tortorella's lone assistant, was joined on the bench Sunday by two members of the Hartford Wolf Pack - the Rangers' top minor league affiliate that was eliminated from the AHL playoffs on Saturday night.
"John and I are very like-minded in our approach tactically and in our approach emotionally so it's not going to be a dramatic difference for the players," Schoenfeld said. "The game plan has been set from the onset of the series."