Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers’ captain and best defenseman, could miss more time after taking an elbow to the head from Toronto’s Leo Komarov and leaving the game—just 12 days after suffering another concussion.
With a minute remaining in the first period, McDonagh was fighting for the puck just inside the Leafs’ zone when Komarov skated up from behind and put an elbow into McDonagh’s head on his way past.
Komarov was ejected, so revenge wasn’t in the cards. The best revenge is to live well, anyway: after a terrible first period, the Rangers came back to win 4-2.
“It’s something that it’s hard not to [retaliate],” said Derek Stepan, “Your first thought is you want to get back, but you can’t play that way. We’re in a situation where we need points really badly. The only way to get back at them is to come up with the two points. We were able to respond in the right way.”
This was McDonagh’s second game back after missing four games with a concussion suffered at the hands (fist) of Wayne Simmonds in a supremely controversial series of events. Simmonds went for a check along the boards on McDonagh away from the puck, and McDonagh put up his stick, catching Simmonds in the head/neck. Simmonds slashed McDonagh’s leg, then hit him with a left glove out of nowhere. Simmonds was ejected by not disciplined by the league, leading New York coach Alain Vigneault to blast the NHL. But that one was tricky; this one is clear-cut headhunting.
Vigneault kept his tongue this time, but very clearly expected supplemental discipline for Komarov, who has never been suspended in his career, though caught criticism for boarding Kris Letang less than a week after he returned from a head injury. That’s probably a safe bet: though the wheel of justice is fickle, Komarov taking a few strides and clearly targeting McDonagh’s head fits the pattern of the type of hit the NHL has tried to discourage.