Gerard Gallant was furious.
The Rangers head coach had a chuckle with former Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo as the teams left the ice on Sunday after a scrum started with a late Domi family cross-check from Max Domi to Ryan Lindgren shortly after the last horn the Rangers had finished Game 3 wins against the Hurricanes.
He made it known that he didn’t like what was happening, calling Domi’s cross-check a “cheap shot”.
Then, in those situations, he flexed the Rangers’ strongest muscle, almost like a threat.
“We’ve got the guy who can handle all his guys if we want to,” Gallant joked.
This guy? His name is Ryan Reaves.
“I’m going to do my thing, run over some people and face them,” Reaves said when asked if Gallant was indirectly referring to him. “Try to achieve the same result as [Sunday] night: another win.”
In a best-of-seven playoff series, tension is bound to arise given how often teams compete and what type of hockey is typically played at this time of year. But it was slow progress in Rangers’ second-round matchup with the Hurricanes.
Things boiled over when Domi landed that late cross check on the lower back of Lindgren, who appears to be holding himself together with tape and glue as he struggles through a lower body injury that has been plaguing him since Game 1 of Round 1. That’s probably why Rangers reacted the way they did.
So will the emotion and intensity spill over into Game 4 after the final whistle in Game 3?
“I hope so,” Reaves said.
“I don’t know what he’s waiting for,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour told reporters. “Everyone will do what they do this time of year. And I hope [Andrei Svechnikov scores goals.”
The 6-foot-1 225-pound Reaves said he wished he got over to the Domi-Lindgren scrum quicker. If you rewind the tape, however, Reaves was right there trying to get through, but had a referee holding him back as Lindgren took care of the situation himself. Still, Reaves knows his role and hasn’t lost sight of that since the Golden Knights traded him to the Rangers last offseason.
Reaves probably isn’t going to provoke a fight just to fight. That hasn’t been his style since he pulled on a red, white and blue sweater. He’s dropped the gloves only twice after getting challenged by an opponent. But Domi and DeAngelo, who was targeting specifically Alexis Lafreniere with his chirps after the game, should expect to be on the receiving end of a couple extra heavy hits.
“I don’t want to say anything stupid here,” Reaves said. “You never want to see guys chirp your bench. I was on the ice for that, I wish I would have seen that, I was more looking at the Domi-Lindgren thing. I’m sure guys aren’t going to shy away from finishing checks on those guys, just like anybody else in their lineup.”
Gallant, who has made it clear in more ways than one that he’s a firm believer of the game ending after the last whistle, said that the end-of-game shenanigans were in the past and there was no need to address it with the team during practice on Monday. The coach also emphasized the importance of not doing anything stupid and focusing on evening the series.
All that being said, Gallant acknowledged that it doesn’t hurt to have some added nastiness in a series. In fact, he believes it helps his team because he likes to see his players “get a little pissed off” every once in a while. It’s also because the Rangers have a player like Reaves.
That’s why president and general manager Chris Drury acquired Reaves and subsequently signed him to an extra one-year deal. That’s why Gallant indirectly referred to the 35-year-old enforcer while fielding questions about the postgame brouhaha.
“I never said his name,” Gallant said with a smile.
But everyone knows who he was referring to. Everyone knows these are the types of situations that brought Reaves to New York. Everyone knows to keep an eye on No. 75 Tuesday night at the Garden.