- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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Addressing the media for the first time since his vibrant goal celebration angered the Lightning in the Rangers' 2-1 loss on Thursday night, Artem Anisimov offered an apology to the Tampa Bay team.
"I just want to apologize to Tampa. I didn't mean something by it. It's just my celebration and, when I score goals, I want to do something unusual. I apologize to Tampa," Anisimov said.
The 23-year-old Russian dropped to one knee, used his stick to mimic a shotgun, and pulled the trigger after scoring a shorthanded goal in Thursday's match, igniting a frustrated Lighting squad led by enraged captain Vinny Lecavalier.
Lecavalier charged Ansimov and a heated skirmish ensued, resulting in a combined total of 38 penalty minutes between the two teams.
The colorful display was not meant to "show up" the Lightning, Anisimov said. He first saw the creative celebration when his teammate in Yarolsavl, Lokomotiv defenseman Ilya Gorokhov, used it as his own personal flourish while playing in Russia's Kontinental Hockey league.
"When he scored a goal, every goal he celebrated like this," said Anisimov, whose first language is Russian. "I watched him and I liked it and I told myself when I play NHL and I score, I want to do the same thing."
Anisimov, who apologized to his teammates after the game Thursday night, said he will refrain from doing that in the future.
"I never do that celebration again," Anisimov said. "It’s a good lesson for me. … No more shooting."
Coach John Tortorella went into "protective mode" and shielded the third-year player from fielding questions about the incident Thursday.
Tortorella hopes Anisimov will move on from it but also retain the confidence that has bolstered his play of late.
"It's a big part of his success this year, is that he's gained confidence in himself, he's gained confidence in interactions, he's speaking better,” Tortorella said. "He's level-headed enough to know that he made a mistake. He's spoken on it and now he's going back to being himself and just play."
Brian Boyle, who has sat in the stall next to Anisimov for the past two seasons, knows him probably best of anyone in the Rangers dressing room. He knew that Anisimov's celebration was not malicious in any way, but a mere reflection of his playful, innocent personality.
"He gets really excited when he scores," Boyle said. "He's a great teammate and he wants to win, but that has nothing to do with trying to show up the other team. What he was trying to do wasn't what people thought it was. We've got Artie's back."
Boyle has seen Anisimov blossom as a player and as a person and hopes he can continue to thrive.
"He's a great teammate. We're buds," Boyle said. "I give him a lot of credit. He comes over here and didn't know much of the language and he's worked really hard trying to get accustomed to our culture, and he's done a great job with that.”
Anisimov said his teammates understood where he was coming from and appreciated their support.
"All for one and one for all, ya know?"
68dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald