NEW YORK, N.Y. – Add the Edmonton Oilers to the long list of teams that are fed up with Sean Avery.
The Oilers were already trailing by three goals in the final period of a long and disappointing five-game road trip when Avery really got them mad. The New York Rangers agitator checked Colin Fraser hard into the boards and, according to the Oilers, declined to fight Ladislav Smid when he was challenged.
Avery eventually took the initiative of throwing a punch after Smid let down his guard when it seemed a fight wouldn’t happen. A brawl then broke out with 8:42 remaining.
When the final buzzer finally sounded Sunday, the Rangers skated off with an 8-2 win, and the Oilers took their best shots of the day—sending pointed words at Avery.
“I thought it was pretty gutless,” said forward Steve MacIntyre, who fought Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard twice in the third period before the big melee. “It just shows you what kind of guy he is. He’ll get his. Somebody who is bigger and tougher … he’ll get what’s coming.”
Avery declined to comment after the game.
In all, 124 penalty minutes were handed out following the brawl—67 to Edmonton—including five standard misconducts and four ejections.
The fisticuffs overshadowed a day that had belonged to Rangers’ top scorer Marian Gaborik, who scored his first three goals of the season, and former New York coach Tom Renney, who made his return to Madison Square Garden for the first time since he was fired by the Rangers in February 2009.
Gaborik, in his second game back after missing 12 because of a separated left shoulder, had one of the Rangers’ four goals in the game-changing second period. It was Gaborik’s second hat trick with New York and 11th in the NHL.
“You want to go out there, work hard and be on top of your game. It is definitely good to go out there, score and get one under your belt,” he said.
Things got out of hand as Avery was being ushered toward the tunnel next to the benches with Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney yelling at him.
“It’s a sucker punch, and I hope they look at it,” Whitney said. “Smid asked him to fight. (Avery) was saying wait. Then Laddie turned around and all of a sudden he gets suckered. I don’t know what the league can do with that, but it’s pretty obvious.”
Theo Peckham joined the fray and was cut off by Rangers forward Brian Boyle. Those two fought after Peckham was blocked from going into the tunnel, and New York’s Brandon Prust took on Zack Stortini. New York’s Brandon Dubinsky was ejected after getting involved in the scrum while on the bench.
“I didn’t want anybody on our bench being involved in it,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said.
Gaborik, playing in his fifth game, added an assist as the Rangers won their second straight at home and sent the Oilers to their fourth consecutive loss (0-3-1) and sixth in seven games (1-5-1).
“It’s embarrassing out here,” Whitney said. “At least we’re sticking up for one another. I guess that’s the only thing you can take out of it.”
Brian Boyle, Artem Anisimov, and Alex Frolov also scored for New York in the second period.
Frolov added his second of the game with 7:46 left, Ruslan Fedotenko scored 40 seconds later, and Gaborik finished his hat trick 1:28 after that to make it 8-2 and give the Rangers their biggest scoring output this season.
Erik Christensen had three assists, and Martin Biron made 18 saves to win his second in a row in relief of the ill Henrik Lundqvist.
Ryan Jones and Shawn Horcoff scored in the second period to give Edmonton a brief lead, but the Oilers couldn’t hold it in front of Nikolai Khabibulin, who stopped 22 shots.
The admittedly anxious Renney, in his first season as Oilers head coach, was looking for a win in his return. It didn’t happen, and the teams won’t meet again until next season.
“It’s good to get the visit out of the way because it’s pretty emotional,” Renney said.
The Rangers broke out in the second with their highest-scoring period of the season. But it sure didn’t start well.
Edmonton struck quickly on goals by Jones and Horcoff 28 seconds apartto grab a 2-1 lead just 3:13 into the second. The Oilers (4-9-3), tied for the fewest points in the NHL, failed to sustain the momentum.
The game flipped for good when Gaborik and Boyle scored in a 25-second span.
The Oilers turned over the puck in the neutral zone, and Christensen found Gaborik with a lightning-fast outlet pass that sent the speedy forward in alone on Khabibulin. Gaborik made a darting cut from left-to-right and guided the puck in with his forehand to make it 2-all at 7:12.
New York broke then broke free on a 2-on-1 rush with Fedotenko and Boyle leading the surge. Fedotenko slid a pass left to Boyle, who added to his already personal-best goal total with a one-timer that put the Rangers back in front at 7:37. Boyle, who had never scored more than four goals, has eight in 17 games this season.
Renney used his lone timeout then, but that was just the start for the Rangers.
Anisimov made it 4-2 with 6:43 remaining, seconds after a power play ended and just following a prime short-handed scoring chance by Edmonton’s Andrew Cogliano.
Frolov capped off the big period when he scored his third goal. That made it 5-2 with 4.8 seconds left.
NOTES: Renney is the fourth on the Rangers’ career list with 164 coaching wins. … Edmonton went 0-3-1 on its five-game trip after starting it with a win at Chicago. … Khabibulin has allowed 18 goals in his past three outings.