Wednesday's game between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals was a boxing match with a little hockey sprinkled in.
The teams combined for 141 penalty minutes and fought six times in the first period, as Rangers players sought to avenge Tom Wilson injuring star Artemi Panarin. While the Capitals wound up winning the game 4-2, the focus after the game remained on the Rangers' reaction to Wilson.
Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith, who fought Wilson immediately after he took the ice Wednesday, offered a rebuke of the NHL's lack of punishment.
"I had no beef with anybody else on their team. I thought it should've been handled before this game, and it wasn't. Unfortunately, it had to be on my shoulders and I thought I took it," Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith told reporters.
The Capitals later pulled Wilson for the rest of the game with an upper-body injury.
The NHL fined Wilson $5,000—the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement—but chose not to suspend the Capitals enforcer despite his long history of on-ice violence that toes the line toward being dirty. The Rangers issued a strong statement Tuesday NHL that said George Parros, who leads the Department of Player Safety, is "unfit for his role."
Forward Ryan Strome, who called the NHL's penalty a "joke," said the league's lack of punishment caused the melee.
"I definitely think that we felt the need to take matters into our own hands a little bit. I thought it was a great response. It really showed a lot from our team," Strome told reporters.
The Rangers organization has been in a state of disarray over the last 48 hours in the fallout of losing Panarin. General manager Jeff Gorton and president John Davidson were fired Wednesday, and coach David Quinn told reporters said he is unsure about his long-term job status.