PHILADELPHIA – The rivalry between the Flyers and Rangers turned ugly in a penalty-filled pre-season game that also appeared to include a homophobic slur from Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds to noted New York agitator Sean Avery.
The Atlantic Division rivals combined for 77 penalty minutes in Philadelphia’s 5-3 victory on Monday night, and more discipline could by coming from the NHL when the league sorts everything out.
Avery and Simmonds were at odds in the first period, and television cameras caught Simmonds jawing at Avery, appearing to utter the slur.
When Avery was asked by reporters after the game if Simmonds called him “what we think he called you,” he answered: “Yeah, yeah.”
Avery said he had “no idea” why Simmonds would make such a remark.
This marked the second controversy in two weeks for Simmonds, who is black. Last week, a banana was thrown at him from the stands during a preseason game in London, Ont.
Simmonds didn’t deny using the slur toward Avery.
“Honestly, we were going back and forth for a while there,” he said, without providing details. “I don’t recall everything that I did say to him, but he said to me some things I didn’t like. And maybe I said some things that he didn’t like.
“I can’t recall every single word I said.”
Simmonds was asked what Avery said and if it crossed the line.
“I’m not going to rat him out,” he said
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette didn’t comment on the exchange. As for what he saw of it, Laviolette said, “It was a couple of guys battling out there.”
Rangers coach John Tortorella took the matter a step further.
“I didn’t hear it. I don’t think Sean Avery is lying,” he said. “I’ll let the league handle it. I did not hear it, but I’m sure Sean Avery isn’t going to lie about it.”
Just before that incident, Philadelphia’s Tom Sestito racked up 20 minutes in penalties after boarding New York’s Andre Deveaux behind the net in a move that will likely draw another suspension for the Flyers.
After the play, Sestito and Stu Bickel fought, resulting in misconducts for both players. Bickel also was given an instigator penalty.
“He got a little overzealous,” Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said.
Last week, after a boarding call in a home preseason game against Toronto, Philadelphia enforcer Jody Shelley was suspended for 10 games by new NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.
Tortorella called for Sestito to be punished, as well.
“Shanny should have a field day. As far as hits from behind, he should have a field day,” he said. “Jody got what, 10 games? This one is worse than that.”
Jaromir Jagr scored two power-play goals and had three points, and Claude Giroux and Danny Briere each had three assists as the Flyers (3-1-1) won their second straight.
On the same day that the 2012 Winter Classic was officially announced to be played at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park on Jan. 2 between these two teams, Jagr, a former Rangers star making his first home appearance with the Flyers, came in with a grand entrance. He has three preseason goals.
The game had a regular-season feel, as both teams’ star goalies—Philadelphia’s Ilya Bryzgalov and New York’s Henrik Lundqvist, were in net.
Brian Boyle had a goal and an assist for the Rangers (1-1-1), who lost Jagr to Russia’s KHL in 2008. He signed with the Flyers this summer.
“He’s such a talented guy with the puck,” Laviolette said. “He’s got a quick release and can generate a lot of offence. He sure looked good to me.”
Jagr, 39, showed no rust as he took a regular shift. He was still out there with two minutes left, looking for the hat-trick goal. He took 18 shifts, five shots, and logged 15 minutes 19 seconds of ice time.
“We were both finding holes in the defence, but teams will adjust to that, as well,” said Briere, who played on a line with Jagr. “But you have to give him credit. He’s pretty good.”
Braydon Coburn scored the winning goal at 6:35 of the third period, and Simmonds concluded his active night with his first goal with the Flyers—scoring into an empty net in the final minute.
Bryzgalov made 17 saves, and Lundqvist finished with 26.