The New York Rangers defeated the New Jersey Devils 4-3 Wednesday night. The game began with a massive five-on-five brawl on the opening face-off. Four players on each team were ejected, continuing a bitter rivalry that the two teams have revived this season.

It is all but certain that the Rangers’ young center, Matt Rempe, was the source of the opening fight, which officially occurred two seconds into the game. The 21-year-old giant has made a name for himself as an extremely physical player early in his career. He has now been ejected from all three games that he has played against the Devils.

In the last matchup between the two teams on March 11, Rempe illegally elbowed Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler, giving him a concussion. He received a four-game suspension for the hit. The start of Wednesday’s game was clearly planned by the Devils as a form of retaliation, but the Rangers were prepared.

To quickly recap, Rempe’s fight with New Jersey’s Kurtis MacDermid was the clear highlight of the brawl. The two fought the longest and only stopped due to fatigue.

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“It was great to see the team responding that way and having each other’s backs out there,’’ MacDermid said after the game. “l have a lot of respect for him (Rempe). He’s a young kid trying to do his thing. I understand that.”

The Rangers’ Jimmy Vesey and K’Andre Miller won their fights decisively, taking down Curtis Lazar and John Marino, respectively. New York defenseman Jacob Trouba fought Chris Tierney and center Barclay Goodrow battled Kevin Bahl. Though hockey fights are scored subjectively, all five Rangers players ended the fray on their feet.

Because Vesey and Lazar technically started the action in the referees’ eyes, they were permitted to stay in the game. Every other fight, however, was ruled as a secondary altercation, so all eight of the other players who fought were ejected.

Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette seemed to be aware of something brewing at the team’s practice Tuesday.

“We gotta win. The division games are always, I think, a little bit more competitive,” Laviolette said. “When you play inside your division more than you do anyone else, there’s probably a little bit more tension inside those games.”

Even Laviolette got in on the action Wednesday night, hurling insults at Devils interim head coach Travis Green from the Rangers’ bench. The two coaches had plenty of time to verbally spar while referees sorted out 130 penalty minutes in the first two seconds.

A few minutes after play resumed in the first period, Devils center Dawson Mercer and Rangers left winger Will Cuylle had a fight of their own after Cuylle landed a hit on one of Mercer’s teammates against the boards. Mercer was ejected for instigating the fight.

The Rangers blew a 2-0 lead in the second period but went on to win the game 4-3 on a power play goal from Chris Kreider in the third. New York improved to 51-21-4, preserving the team’s current standing as the best in the NHL. The Devils continued their 2023-24 skid, falling to 36-36-4, relegating them to seventh in the Atlantic Division.

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