Dylan McIlrath drops the gloves and exchanges punches with Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds just 39 seconds into Sunday night’s game.
There’s never been love lost between the Rangers and Flyers, and that sure didn’t change Sunday on Valentine’s Day.
Eight days after Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh was concussed from a gloved left-jab by the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds, which kept McDonagh out for his fourth straight game on Sunday night, fireworks erupted just 39 seconds into the Rangers’ 3-1 victory over Philadelphia at the Garden.
After Simmonds and Dylan McIlrath chatted at the red line during warmups, the two dropped the gloves on the second shift of the game, and the officials weren’t quick to break it up. When Simmonds took the ice for the faceoff, Alain Vigneault sent McIlrath, who was paired with Dan Boyle for most of the game, out with Marc Staal. Each fighter exchanged some big punches while McIlrath drew blood, cutting Simmonds, who was booed by the crowd all night, above his left eye.
“It was pretty clear. I wanted to send a message,” McIlrath said. “I wanted to stick up for my teammate, our captain, our best player. I can respect (Simmonds) for squaring up with me, and I’m just happy how it all worked out.”
McIlrath said “not too many nice words were said” when the two chatted before the game.
Derick Brassard opens up the scoring with a first period goal.
“(McIlrath) wanted to fight,” Simmonds said. “I told him to do it on my terms. He said he was going to run around and hit my guys. He hit (Jakub Voracek) so I stepped in. Stopped it early.”
Twenty seconds after play restarted, the Rangers’ Tanner Glass fought Ryan White and created a raucous atmosphere in the arena when he took White down.
“I don’t think there was anyone in the building that didn’t know it was coming,” said Derek Stepan, who scored two third-period goals, including one on a power play. “It was something that both teams knew was gonna happen. It’s part of our sport. I thought both guys in our locker room did a great job of stepping up. It’s an extremely tough job, and those guys get all the credit, for sure.”
Henrik Lundqvist stops 21 shots on goal and falls 9.7 seconds short of posting his second consecutive shutout.
Even Alain Vigneault, who on Saturday tried to keep the focus on the Rangers (32-18-6, 70 points) getting two points, admitted McIlrath and Glass fighting within the first minute set the tone for the game.
“There’s no doubt that guys were sticking up for Mac with what happened in Philly,” the coach said. “I can’t say I’m displeased about that.”
Derick Brassard scored at 5:08 of the first for his 19th goal of the season, which ties a career-high. Mats Zuccarello assisted on both of Stepan’s goals, the first a no-look backhanded pass that drew Steve Mason (27 saves) out of the crease and allowed Stepan to finish on an open net.
Henrik Lundqvist (21 saves) was 9.7 seconds away from posting shutouts in consecutive appearances, but Brayden Schenn scored on a power play during which the Flyers (24-21-10, 58 points) had a six-on-four with Mason pulled. McDonagh worked out Sunday morning after practicing Saturday but still hasn’t been cleared for contact.
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