Oilers and Rangers get into line brawl during Rangers blowout win

You see it happen every now and again that teams mixed up in a blowout game will see tempers get hot and then everyone’s throwing off the gloves. You usually don’t end up seeing a full-on line brawl in the NHL anymore but this afternoon’s game between Edmonton and the Rangers in Madison Square Garden saw just that.

With the Rangers in control of the game up 5-2 midway through the third period, Sean Avery delivered a crunching hit to Colin Fraser along the boards. A big hit, but a legal one. Edmonton’s Ladislav Smid apparently took umbrage with Avery and asked him to drop the gloves. Avery said yes, and caught Smid with a quick right hand and dropped him to the ice. After those two were being wrangled up to be sent to the penalty box, and the game went to commercial break, upon returning to action all hell broke loose. You can see the video of the entire fiasco here.

After seeing what happened, Smid and Avery did a bit of talking and Avery seemingly was turning him down and then opted to go for it once action got deep enough down in the other end of the ice. While Avery was being sent to the locker room, Oilers defenseman Theo Peckham appears out of nowhere to have a word with him. NHL.com’s Dave Lozo gets the low-down from Peckham and Colin Fraser as to what they saw happen.

“I just watched my teammate ask a guy to fight,” Peckham said. “Avery said ‘No, no next shift.’ And as soon as Smider turned around, he sucker punched him. He skated by our bench laughing. I definitely made a mistake and went a little wonky, but we’re family and sometimes you have to make a stand for yourself.”

“It was a sucker punch,” Fraser said. “I think he had his chance, fair and square, 1-on-1 with (Smid). I could hear (Smid) with my own ears. ‘Let’s go, let’s go.’ Hey, if you don’t want to fight, that’s fine. You don’t have to fight. But you can’t punch the guy after you’ve already said no.”

Sean Avery and controversy certainly get along just fine. As for the whole penalty breakdown of what happened when everyone seemed to pair off to bring Fight Night back to MSG, take a look at this run down.

Also mixing things up were tough guys Brandon Prust and Zack Sortini, meanwhile Brian Boyle picked off Theo Peckham after he tried to get at Sean Avery on his way to the tunnel. Boys will be boys they say, right?

For what it’s worth, ESPN’s E.J. Hradek says that he’s hearing that there won’t be any suspensions coming out of this whole thing, but for one afternoon we had a throw back to the old days of hockey when things could bubble over at any moment and turn ugly. It’s brought a tear to my eye at least.

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson