It took all of two seconds for fists to start flying in the third meeting of the season between the Devils and the Rangers.
Each team put out their fourth line to start the game and almost immediately following the opening faceoff, the gloves came off.
Devils heavyweight Eric Boulton fought Rangers tough guy Brandon Prust, while Cam Janssen and Mike Rupp followed suit. The pair of battles ignited both the crowd and the benches, setting the tone for a hard-hitting, physical affair at Madison Square Garden.
"I thought it was unbelievable," said gritty winger David Clarkson, who leads the Devils with 88 penalty minutes and tallied his career-high 21st goal of the season in New Jersey's 1-0 shutout win. "I think that’s one of the hardest jobs in hockey. People always say fighting this, fighting that, but that just goes to show you right there. Those guys weren’t going out to fight for each other or for themselves. They were fighting for the team and to set the tone. It set the tone for this club and I believe that’s why the game went the way it did, because of those two. My hats are off to both of them."
Goaltender Martin Brodeur, who recorded his first shutout of the season with a 30-save effort, joked about the level of coordination it took for both fights to start simultaneously.
"It was like synchronized fighting," he marveled.
Janssen said he was worried about getting ejected from the game -- a player cannot engage in an altercation once a primary fight has begun, per rule 46.7 -- but said the officials relented.
"They kind of gave us a break there," said Janssen, who returned to the lineup Tuesday after being scratched six straight games. "They probably could've kicked one of us out, but they gave us the benefit of the doubt and I appreciate that."
Janssen said he challenged Rupp, but, in adherence to the fighter's code, made sure to first ask if Rupp was healthy enough to fight. The veteran bruiser suffered a broken thumb against the Devils last week after being slashed on the hand by Boulton.
Rupp gave his consent and the two wasted no time knuckling up.
"Simple as that," Janssen joked. "That's what we do."
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Brodeur said he was "okay" following a third-period collision with Ryan Callahan in which he appeared to injure his right ankle.
He finished the game "with no problem," however, and didn't sound too concerned.
"Hopefully tomorrow it will be fine," he said.