Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 5/21/12

John Tortorella and Pete Deboer had their first run-in during the regular season when Deboer sent out a starting lineup of goons to set the tone in a regular season game between the Rangers and Devils at Madison Square Garden on March 19. Tortorella was provoked to the point where he grabbed the stick from the hands of Brad Richards, stormed over to the end of the bench and hacked at the glass separating he and Deboer, screaming all sorts of expletives the entire time. Clearly Torts was frustrated with the fact that Deboer matched up his fourth line against the Marian Gaborik line, which the Rangers had originally sent out to start the game. 

The dispute carried over into the following days, beginning with Tortorella claiming that there was no respect in Deboer's decision, to which Deboer responded by calling Torts a "hypocrite" and a person with "short-term memory." Torts put an end to the war of words by suggesting that they both just "shut up."

They did, that is, until this past weekend's Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

A high elbow to the head of Anton Volchecnkov by Brandon Prust in the second period sparked an uproar from the Devils' side of things being that it went uncalled. Prust, of course, would later be suspended one game for the reckless play, but that's beside the point. 

What the Devils, led by their coach, would say following the tilt about Prust stirred the pot in what has been a rather calm series to this point. First it was the recipient of the hit, Anton Volchenkov, making a case that the hit was "pretty dirty", which Deboer backed by saying "it's head hunting plain and simple."

Tortorella did not take kindly to these comments, making a few of his own following Sunday's practice...

“Pruster’s played probably 300-plus games without any hearing, anything going on with him,” Tortorella told Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants. “He’s probably one of the most honest players. I look at (Dainius) Zubrus elbow to (Anton) Stralman, I look at (Zach) Parise launching himself at (Michael) Del Zotto. Maybe if our players stay down on the ice, we’ll get something. We tell our players don’t stay down on the ice, get up.

“The picking on the power plays, set plays, picking on the power play, if we want to start discussing officials with the media, I have a long list here,” Tortorella added. “That’s a set play by Jersey, picking so we can’t get to (Ilya) Kovalchuk to block a shot. You want some more?”

And now you're probably anxiously awaiting to hear what Deboer had to say in retaliation to those remarks, right? To the disappointment of us all, he did not say much, but rather muttered one simple word: "Comical."

But in Tortorella's defense, and maybe Prust's as well, Volchenkov did take a heavy flop to the ice for what looked to be light contact between his head and Prust's elbow. That sure does not excuse Prust's recklessness on the play, and still, the suspension can be justified just based on that, but you can certainly make a case claiming there was some embellishment on Volchenkov's part there. And if such is the case, you cannot blame Torts for getting riled up over the situation and it's result.

The John Tortorella vs. Pete Deboer rivalry became a sideshow in this match-up in mid-March and is now picking up right where it left off in these playoffs. Will it have an impact on which club wins this series? Absolutely not. But will it bring up the intensity and hatred in a rivalry series? You bet. 


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