Hockey can be an emotional game, and often a team can use emotion as fuel, which is what the Rangers seemed to do Tuesday night, when they rallied from a two-goal deficit to power past the Montreal Canadiens, 5-3, at Madison Square Garden.
Three third-period goals, from Pavel Buchnevich, Neal Pionk and Mika Zibanejad, lifted the Rangers (7-7-1) to their fourth straight victory, but it was some second-period fireworks that seemed to turn the momentum in their favor.
A pair of goals less than two minutes apart had given the Canadiens a 3-1 lead. But when Montreal’s Max Domi tried to hit rookie Filip Chytil, the Rangers took exception. Chytil saw Domi coming and spun away, but Domi got a piece of him and sent Chytil’s stick flying. Pionk immediately grabbed Domi and wanted to fight him, but Domi refused, and play continued.
“It’s a bit of a loose puck, he went to hit Fil, Fil kind of dodged it, so I just had to show that I didn’t like the hit and I had to let him know that,’’ Pionk said. “It’s something that we talked about early in the year, too — standing up for each other, sticking up for each other, making sure we have each other’s backs.’’
Pionk then hit a Montreal player into the boards and Cody McLeod hit him as well. Tempers flared, and McLeod ended up with a two-minute charging penalty, a four-minute roughing penalty, and a 10-minute misconduct. Montreal’s Mike Reilly got a roughing penalty and the net result was that the Rangers had to kill four minutes of penalty time.
Before that was over, Brendan Smith was sent off for allegedly tripping Joel Armia — who looked on replay as if he dived — and a few seconds later, Tomas Tatar was sent off for interference against Pionk, who looked on replay as if he also may have dived. A couple more Canadiens penalties followed, and eventually, one second after a penalty to Phillip Danault expired, Tony DeAngelo scored with a wrist shot that hit the crossbar and bounced in at 17:45, pulling the Rangers within 3-2 and putting all the momentum in their favor.
“I think so. I think it put a little life in us,’’ Pionk said of the skirmish. “We killed all those penalties off and I think it put a little life in the team. Guys get angry, guys get mad, and we came out firing in the third.’’
Coach David Quinn had some fiery words for the Rangers between periods.
“I thought we were soft in the first, we weren’t skating in the second and ‘Quinnie’ kind of came in and let us know how we were playing, between the second and third there,’’ Kevin Hayes said. “And I thought from the first shift, we were all over them. They played [Monday] night and we didn’t. I thought we outworked them a little bit.’’
Buchnevich, playing in his second straight game after having sat out two straight as a healthy scratch, tied the score at 3 when he jammed in the rebound of Marc Staal’s shot at 8:25 of the third period, and then Pionk went the length of the ice to score his second goal of the season at 17:16 to give the Rangers their first lead of the game.
“I looked to pass three times, didn’t have any options,’’ Pionk said. “When I skated in the zone, I knew Mark was to my left, I knew ‘Kreids’ [Chris Kreider] was way behind the play, but didn’t really know where Mika was. I just wanted to get it in and get it deep in the zone. But once I realized I had a step on him, I cut in.’’
Zibanejad banged in a loose puck off a misplay by Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry to ice it at 18:12.