Ottawa Senators forward Chris Neil has never been a very well-liked guy within the New York Rangers’ dressing room. Not since he concussed Brian Boyle in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in 2012.
Suffice it to say he did nothing to endear himself further with his hit on Rangers defenseman Marc Staal in the team’s 3-2 loss to the Senators Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Neil, a player who certainly straddles the edge with his rugged, abrasive-type game, rammed Staal into the boards with 2:47 remaining in the game. Staal responded by chasing down Neil as the two engaged in a nasty tussle that led to pairs of players tangled up in a heated fracas that followed.
Even though Neil was not penalized on the play, Staal’s teammates were not happy with what they saw.
“I think it’s a dirty hit, a blind-side hit that’s a little late, so that’s how players react,” said Zuccarello, who received a two minute roughing minor for squaring off with Zack Smith after the play.
The scrum resulted in Staal earning an extra roughing minor, leaving the Rangers shorthanded for 2:00 of the remaining 2:47 minutes of the game.
“It’s unbelievable how they get a power-play out of that,” said Zuccarello, whose two-goal performance in the second period pulled the Rangers within a goal of tying the game.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was similarly displeased, by the hit itself, the fact that it went unpenalized, and the resulting Senators power-play once the tempers had diffused.
“I think it’s a brutal call, first of all,” he said. “Their guy comes in first and [Staal] comes in after, so it should definitely not be a four-minute for him, but I definitely think it’s a late hit. There were a couple of different calls [to make] on that hit. It’s a late hit, too many strides, but it is what it is.”
Staal was not in the locker room after the game, but according to a Rangers spokesperson, he is not suffering any ill effects from the play.
“He’s fine,” the spokesperson said after the game.
Staal has missed significant time the previous two season with both a serious concussion and a harrowing eye injury. The Rangers are already without top defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who is sidelined with a “day-to-day” shoulder injury.