It was quite the conclusion to a homestand that began with two losses: A Marian Gaborik hat trick, two goals for Alex Frolov and an 8-2 rout of the Edmonton Oilers that was punctuated by a third-period brawl that spilled into the hallway and onto the Rangers bench and resulted in 124 minutes in penalties.
Steve MacIntyre and Derek Boogaard had already fought twice in the third period, but the melee erupted at 11:18. With the Rangers ahead 5-2, the uproar was ignited by Sean Avery and Ladislav Smid yapping and dropping the gloves at mid-ice, and Avery decking Smid with a quick right hand that the Oilers called a sucker punch.
As Avery stepped into the tunnel to the locker rooms, Theo Peckham, Ryan Whitney and Colin Fraser tried to confront him, but an official pulled Avery down the corridor, as players paired off on the ice: Brandon Prust fought with Zack Stortini, Brian Boyle got involved and Peckham then skated to the Rangers bench, where coach John Tortorella tried to hold back Brandon Dubinsky and others.
“I didn’t want our bench being involved in it,” said Tortorella. “But there’s so much to decipher there, I’m not going to comment on that right now. It just wouldn’t be fair.”
Peckham, however, accused Avery of a cheap shot: “I watched my teammate ask a guy to fight and Avery turned around and said ‘No, no, next shift’ and then, Avery turned around and sucker-punched him. Then he skated by our bench laughing. I definitely made a little mistake and went a little wonky there, but we’re a family and sometimes you have to make a stand.” Said Fraser: “You can't punch the guy after you've already said no." Avery was not immediately available for comment.
Peckham received a misconduct, game misconduct, fighting and roughing penalties. Stortini also received a game misconduct, as did Prust and Boyle. Fines and suspensions are likely.
“It would have been nice to do that maybe 40 minutes earlier,” said Oilers’ coach Tom Renney, whose Garden homecoming didn’t turn out the way he wanted. “I think we needed to start the game with that kind of passion and not finish it that way.”
The Rangers (9-7-1) weren’t finished. They scored three more goals after the brawl, with Frolov scoring his second, unassisted, after a turnover at 12:14. Ruslan Fedotenko slid a long shot past Nikolai Khabibulin 45 seconds later, and Gaborik capped his hat trick on a breakaway at 14:22.
Gaborik, who opened the scoring after a beautiful move at the blue line, recovering the puck behind the net and scoring at 1:35 of the first, added an assist for four points in his second game back after missing 12 with a separated left shoulder. His line accounted for 11 points. Frolov had four points, with the pair of goals and two assists. Center Erik Christensen, who had just four points coming into the game, contributed three assists.
“It’s important for us to click together as a line and for me to feel comfortable,” said Gaborik. “It’s a relief when you get one under your belt in the first period.” It was his second hat trick as a Ranger and 11th of his career. “I didn’t give him much time in the first period,” said Tortorella, “and I felt him looking at me the whole time; he wanted to get on the ice.”