GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils have played their final game of the regular season. But the rivalry continues to blister, as Rangers coach John Tortorella fired back at Devils coach Pete DeBoer on Tuesday after practice.
When asked about DeBoer's comments following the Rangers' 4-2 win at Madison Square Garden on Monday -- DeBoer called Tortorella a "hypocrite" for objecting to his starting lineup of tough guys -- Tortorella delivered a stern, succinct reply:
Tortorella was livid that DeBoer started his fourth line of fighters -- Eric Boulton, Ryan Carter and Cam Janssen -- prompting him to start his own trio of tough guys in Mike Rupp, Stu Bickel and Brandon Prust. They all dropped their gloves for an opening-faceoff line brawl.
After the game, DeBoer said Tortorella was either a "hypocrite" or had "short-term memory loss," and referenced a game back in December when Tortorella started both Rupp and Prust in New Jersey.
"I think Peter needs to jog his memory, as far as the starting lineups that I've put in in his building," said Tortorella, who started his top line of Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan and Marian Gaborik in the Rangers' last visit to Newark, on March 6. "And really, basically just shut up. And I need to also."
"I think the situation last night was disrespectful to players, and I think we took a backwards step," Tortorella said.
Tortorella said he essentially had no choice but to answer DeBoer's lineup with a similar one; he made a last-minute adjustment to have Bickel, a bruising defenseman, take the opening faceoff with the explicit intent to fight after puck drop.
"I get put into a position when he puts a lineup out, that I'm not sure what's going to happen if I put my top players out, so I have to answer the way I need to answer. Just look at the two lineups and some of the things he's done through the games here," Tortorella said. "I don't want to coach his team here, but just shut up."
In the Rangers' 4-1 win on Dec. 20, Rupp and Janssen earned five-minute fighting majors three seconds into the first period. More mayhem ensued at 1:47 of the first, as David Clarkson of the Devils and the Rangers' Brandon Dubinsky got five-minute fighting majors and Boulton and the Rangers' Ryan Callahan earned 10-minute misconduct penalties.
Tortorella made it clear he is no pacifist -- his team leads the league with 62 fighting majors -- but has no taste for orchestrated brawls.
"Fighting's part of the game, it's a big part of the game, but it doesn't need to be manufactured," Tortorella said. "In that type of game -- [New] Jersey and the Rangers -- there was going to be fights, but it's really gotten old for me, the staged fights."
In six games between the two teams this season, a combined 22 fighting majors have been assessed. That's fine with Tortorella, as long as the fighting is warranted and not orchestrated.
But last night, he felt it was different.
"That crap at the beginning of the game, to try to manipulate it into it, I just don't think it's right for the game. I think there's enough of it and there always will be and there should be," Tortorella said, "but let the players decide."