Credit the NHL schedule makers for a little bit of irony, matching up the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers on Valentine’s Day night.
The longtime rivals squared off in a chippy affair Sunday night, and as usual, there was no love lost. That was to be expected, too, as there was a score to settle after the two teams faced each other a week ago in Philly.
Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds was ejected from a Feb. 6 game against the Rangers for sucker-punching New York captain Ryan McDonagh in the face. The Rangers defense suffered a concussion and hasn’t played since.
With the two teams getting together just a week later, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some leftover resentment. That manifested itself before the puck even dropped, as Simmonds had a not-so-friendly pregame conversation with Rangers defenseman Dylan McIlrath. You can probably figure out how that conversation went, as the two dropped the gloves just 39 seconds into the game.
McIlrath told reporters after the game that “not too many nice words were said” during the pregame get-together.
“It was pretty clear. I wanted to send a message,” McIlrath said after the game, per the New York Daily News. “I wanted to stick up for my teammate, our captain, our best player. I can respect (Simmonds) for squaring up with me, and I’m just happy how it all worked out.”
Simmonds also shared his side of the story.
“(McIlrath) wanted to fight,” Simmonds said, according to the Daily News. “I told him to do it on my terms. He said he was going to run around and hit my guys. He hit (Jakub Voracek) so I stepped in. Stopped it early.”
Twenty seconds after that bout, New York’s Tanner Glass and Philly’s Ryan White took their turn.
The Rangers won the most important fight, too, skating to a 3-1 victory over their Metropolitan Division rivals.