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Devils Rival, Rangers Head Coach Rips Islanders for ‘Vicious’ Hits

A week after a line brawl with the Devils, Peter Laviolette cites “vicious” hits against the Islanders.

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New York Rangers
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The New York Rangers head coach left a 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders quite unhappy on Tuesday night.

Peter Laviolette wasn’t unhappy with dropping two points in regulation, however. The Rangers head coach was instead livid at a pair of hits against his team that he labeled as “vicious.”

Oh, the irony.

Near the midway mark of the third period, Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad skated into Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech. Zibanejad took the brunt of the hit that Laviolette later claimed was intentional.

“He came back at the end from that vicious hit. He came back. That vicious shoulder, elbow to the head. Watch it,” Laviolette said.

Islanders head coach Patrick Roy, however, sees it otherwise — and frankly, so did the referees and most fans whose allegiance doesn’t belong to the Rangers.

“No, it was accidental. The referee was in a really good position to see it. I was more afraid that Pelly might get hurt on that one. [Zibanejad] was the one that hit Pelly. It was totally accidental. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Roy explained.

“I don’t know why we’re talking about this, quite honestly. I’m a little surprised. It’s clear in my mind that it was accidental. We could talk about it for an hour if you want to, but I think we’re wasting our time. It was accidental, Roy concluded.

Roy’s assessment is spot on. Neither Zibanejad nor Pelech were looking at each other, Pelech’s feet weren’t moving, and it was purely incidental contact.

Later in the third period, Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson threw a check on Rangers forward Vincent Trocheck that certainly had a case to be called for boarding.

However, there was no penalty in the play.

Still, the Rangers’ head coach was quite livid with the hit by Dobson and didn’t mince words in expressing his anger.

“Vicious, from behind,” said Laviolette. “It was hard out there tonight having to get through all of that. It was hard, but our guys kept fighting and battling until the end.”

Granted, Laviolette has a better case citing Dobson’s hit over Pelech’s. However, claiming both hits as vicious is a bit overstated.

“Sometimes, frustration makes you say things,” Roy said of Laviolette.

That’s a nice way of putting it by the Islanders’ head coach.

Fans of the New Jersey Devils certainly are scoffing at Laviolette’s remarks.

The Devils and Rangers just wrapped up a heated series of games featuring Matt Rempe and a handful of illegal checks.

First, it was a blow to the head of Devils forward Nathan Bastian that has him out since their meeting in February. Then it was an illegal elbow to the head of Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler that saw him sustain a concussion.

Rempe received a match penalty for his hit on Bastian and then a four-game suspension for the elbow to Siegenthaler.

“I think Rempe has done a great job of coming in and providing physical presence to all the games that he’s played in, not just to talk about the New Jersey Devils,” Laviolette explained. “There was an incident that happened where the league took action. We tried to talk to Matt and teach him about what he’s allowed to do and can do on the ice. But in the same sense, he’s been a really effective player for us in the way he plays the game. There are some games where we feel like a heavier presence can be needed. And so we’ve used him in those games and he’s done an excellent job and that’s the way we’re approaching it for the rest of the season.”

Choosing to be diplomatic about his own player versus showing his frustration about an incidental collision and a far less impactful check on Trocheck is certainly ironic. Especially after Devils interim head coach Travis Green was puzzled by Laviolette’s anger with him last week.

“As far as Peter and I go, I look over and he’s yelling, talking to me. I’m more than willing to go and talk to him. And I have no idea why Peter [Laviolette] was mad. I mean, to be honest for two reasons. For starters, their players were lining up fights before the faceoff. And, none of this would have happened, which we all know why it did happen tonight, but none of it would have happened if something [hadn’t] happened in the game before which was obvious that they didn’t want to happen that game. So I have no idea why Peter would have been upset. And again, that’s not on me why he’s upset.”

The Rangers and Islanders square off again on Saturday. It’s another nationally televised game. Perhaps, the Rangers have another brawl ahead of them this weekend.

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