NEWARK, NJ - MAY 21: Linesman Brian Murphy #93 pulls Mike Rupp #71 of the New York Rangers away from Martin Brodeur #30 after an altercation in the third period of Game Four of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Prudential Center on May 21, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Need proof? Look no further than the third period of Game 4, when Mike Rupp went out onto the ice, a one-man wrecking crew looking to hit anything in his way. That led to a penalty for hitting Peter Harrold, and the subsequent scrum that broke out after he punched an unsuspecting Martin Brodeur in the chest.
It continued on the benches, where John Tortorella - who usually saves his anger for his players and the officials - stared to yell at Peter DeBoer. The two coaches moved to the ends of the benches, leaning over and pointing their fingers at one another.
In total, the Rangers took 36 penalty minutes in the third period. That included two 10-minute misconduct penalties, and finally showed what New Jersey hoped for all along - that their disciplined, between the whistles play would frustrate New York into taking extra penalties.
"We hope we frustrated them," defenseman Bryce Salvador told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "Time will tell, but it was the same strategy with Philly. Not to get involved in those plays and try to play whistle to whistle and, hopefully, we can frustrate them and have them take penalties"
The strategy appears to be working. In the past two games, New Jersey has received at least five powerplay opportunies. While they're still not clicking on the man advantage, that time helps keep the Rangers big scorers on the bench, and tires out a defense stacked with players routinely receiving heavy minutes.
It's also shown on the coaching side. Tortorella has been extremely vocal during the series, blaming the Devils for diving and putting the blame on the referees. He was at it again after Game 4, blaming the officials for Rupp's actions.
"It probably shouldn’t have happened," Tortorella said after the loss. "I thought it was just a legal hit (on Harrold). None of that would have happened if we just kept on playing the game. I don’t know why there was a penalty called. I’m not questioning the referee. I just thought it was a legal hit and nothing would have happened."
No offense to Tortorella, but it sounds like he's questioning the referee in that entire statement.
The true colors of the rivalry are starting to show, and even though players say there will be no carryover tonight, it wll have its fair share of chippy play. New Jersey, who has dominated most of the play in the series, needs to continue their discipline.
Just like in the series in Philadelphia, it's starting to crack the Rangers. With enough cracks, the foundation may just come crumbling down.