John Tortorella is still not convinced.
When asked about the fever-pitch atmosphere for his team's 1-0 overtime win against the Islanders in front of a sellout crowd at a boisterous Nassau Coliseum, Tortorella still wasn't comfortable with the "R" word.
"I don't buy the rivalry," he said, insisting it takes an "old-fashioned" playoff series to breed the type of hostility and hatred necessary to earn that designation. "I think you need some good, stiff playoff situations -- seven-game series -- and that's how you build a rivalry.
Which is not to say he was taking a dig across the hallway.
In fact, one day after dismissing questions about the Islanders, Tortorella praised the team and said they "deserved" to have people come to the building to watch; he said the two teams' close proximity in the standings was the real reason the atmosphere was so intense.
"We're happy to take part in a game like that with them," he said.
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Rangers forward (and former Islander) Arron Asham negated what would've been a Rangers power-play in the first period when he took a roughing penalty for retaliating against Islanders' Colin McDonald for his crushing hit on Rangers defenseman Steve Eminger.
But it was important to Asham to come to his teammate's defense.
"It happens," Asham said. "I'm going to stick up for my teammates. Sometimes you've got to sacrifice. No one was hurt and nothing terrible happened, so ... it worked out."
Teammate Brian Boyle had no problem with that.
"What he did was great intentions and [we'll play] 4-on-4," Boyle said. "He's a warrior. He's played for a while and he's a veteran. He's a great guy to have on your team."