New York Rangers winger Ryan Reaves had some regrets after Game 3 against the Carolina Hurricanes. Not about the result, which was a 3-1 win for the Rangers at Madison Square Garden that cut their series deficit to 2-1. But about the immediate consequences.
Reaves was on the ice last buzzer when Carolina forward Max Domi gave Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren a counter check in the New York zone, resulting in the two wrestling onto the ice. Meanwhile, Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo exchanged words with the Rangers bench, leading to an angry coach Gerard Gallant hitting back.
“You never want to see a guy chirping on your bench,” Reaves said. “I wish I had seen that. I looked more at the Domi/Lindgren thing. It happens in playoff games. I think the guys feel a little bit braver knowing that scrums like this aren’t going to get anywhere. I wish I was safe a little faster in the scrum. I wish I had caught him first.”
Gallant memorably called it “the cops — at the end of the game they initiated,” and condemned what he saw as the Hurricanes’ futile attempt to message before Game 4 on Tuesday night.
“The game is over,” said the coach. “You don’t send a message. We have the guy who can handle all her boys if we want to.”
Did he mean Reaves, one of the last remaining enforcers in the NHL?
“I never said his name,” Gallant said Monday, laughing.
Gallant Reaves coached with the Vegas Golden Knights before they both joined Rangers. “He did his job perfectly [in Vegas]. It’s not about going out there and fighting. What has he fought twice this year?” Gallant asked. (It was three times.) ‘He’s just an insurance cover for you. Our boys know we have him there.”
In moments at the end of Game 3, the second-round series between the Rangers and the Hurricanes turned into a series that Reaves would love. The emotions boiled over. penalties were earned. There was talk of rubbish.
“I just think it’s possible [happen] in the playoffs when you play the same team over and over again,” Gallant said. “It will happen naturally. I don’t think guys are like, ‘Okay, now we have to be angry. We need to start a scrum. We need to start catching guys’ eyes.” It never is.”
The Hurricanes deny that “messages were sent” at the end of Game 3. Coach Rod Brind’Amour reacted as if surprised by Gallant’s claim.
“Did he really say that?” he said, noting that players like Martin Necas and Jesperi Kotkaniemi were on the ice when Domi mistook it for Lindgren. “I don’t know what he’s talking about. We don’t really have people broadcasting messages.”
“I don’t know what message we sent,” said rookie forward Seth Jarvis. “We played to the end and then everything got out of hand.”
But the Rangers are clearly trying to use the incident as a green light for more physicality on the show, which Gallant believes is to their advantage.
“I like to see our boys get a little pissed off every now and then,” he said. “We’re playing better. It helps us concentrate a little bit better.”
Reave agreed. “Some of these top guys are getting a little more physical,” he said. “I think our team thrives on that. Some teams shy away. I think we’re fine with that.”
Obviously there are limitations to this physicality. While the Hurricanes stuttered on the road on the power play and went 1:19 in the playoffs, the Rangers don’t want to tempt fate by taking irresponsible penalties. They have benefited from being one of the most disciplined teams in the playoffs, averaging 3.30 penalties per 60 minutes, behind only Colorado when it comes to staying out of the box.
“You don’t want to get out of your game,” said defenseman Justin Braun. “You don’t want to take stupid penalties in a series that’s so close. You have to have that physicality, but you have to keep your head.”
However, Rangers will remember how Domi wrestled with Lindgren after the buzzer. You’ll remember DeAngelo on the benches, adding to the heat he already had with his former team. The question is, will that manifest in any additional physicality getting in the way of these players in Game 4?
Pondering that question on Monday, Reaves nodded his head while a long-drawn-out “ummmm” buzzed through his mouth. A smile slowly crept across his face.
“I don’t want to say anything stupid here,” he said, cracking a laugh. “I’m sure [our] The guys won’t shy away from completing checks on these guys. There will be some added wickedness when a certain player does something.”