NEW YORK—Feeding off the feverish energy in Madison Square Garden that bad been building since the national anthems, Brandon Prust wanted to help jumpstart the Rangers for its big game Friday against Montreal.
So right as the puck dropped, Prust and Montreal’s Travis Moen mixed it up, throwing punches back and forth before eventually being stopped and receiving a loud ovation from the raucous crowd. In the next 20 minutes, the Rangers scored five goals.
“I think it was spur of the moment,” Prust said. “A lot of energy in the building and we both wanted to get our guys going and neither one of us was going to back down. We both know, we were both willing, so it wasn’t a hard one.”
Several members of the Rangers believe Prust’s fight was the catalyst for one of the Rangers most important wins of the season as they defeated the Canadiens, 6-3. The Rangers scored five goals in the first period, the first time the Blue Shirts have scored that many in the first period since 1999.
“I thought Prusty set the tone with that fight,” Rangers forward Ryan Callahan said. “It is playoff hockey now and we can’t afford to have a let up.”
Even before the pucks and gloves dropped, the Garden buzzed Friday night. Fans from both teams were pumped for this game and a rousing rendition of "O Canada" and "The Star Spangled Banner" by students from PS 22 only heightened the excitement.
Prust admitted the lively environment got his blood pumping and said his fight was a “fun way to start a game.” He said he had no previous history with Moen, but neither player was going to back down.
While it might be hard to tangibly connect a fast start to a fight that neither player seemed to have the true upper hand, the Ranges came out inspired and played perhaps their best period of the season with the five goals, including three within a span of 67 seconds. The Rangers are now just five points behind Montreal for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference with 10 games left.
“I think it’s a big play,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “We didn’t talk about it, it wasn’t in the script as far as our pregame meeting, Prust took it upon himself and high marks to Moen for answering and the building was alive. You could feel it when you stepped on the ice for the anthems and Pruster felt that was the right thing to do….I think that’s a huge play just to start momentum for our team in our home building.”