Alexis Lafrenière opposed Islanders center JG Pageau’s hit on teammate Ryan Lindgren in the third period of Rangers’ possible 4-1 win at Long Island on Wednesday night, so the former top pick in the overall standings sparked the first fight of his hockey career.
After tripping Pageau on the way with less than two minutes remaining in regulation – a call the referees certainly missed – Lafrenière skated again to counter Pageau. The two became entangled before Lafrenière threw down his gloves and gave Pageau a handful of punches, prompting the two players to fall on top of each other on the ice.
“I thought it was a little high, and I didn’t like it, so I kind of took it out on him,” Lafrenière said after Rangers practice for Thanksgiving Thursday afternoon. “And you saw what happened, so you know, maybe I need to work on my fighting skills.”
The Rangers may have faced a skeleton from the Islanders roster, which was exhausted by a COVID-19 outbreak and a host of long-term injuries, but the Isles were still able to play the physical mark. hockey which has become an exceptional quality of the identity of the organization.
There is a lot that young players like Lafrenière can take away from competing in these types of games, including how to not only stifle an opponent’s aggressiveness, but also how to counter it.
“I’ve always played a bit physically, but you have to be more physical here I think,” said the 20-year-old winger. “[In] this league, nothing is given to you. You really have to work for your space. So it’s good to be physical and add something to your game.
Lafrenière added that, like many of his young teammates, he took lessons from the Ryan Reaves School of Fighting. He described Reaves as one of the toughest guys in the NHL and noted that the law enforcement veteran can teach Rangers how to protect themselves in these situations.
Lindgren, who said he was feeling great after Pageau’s hit, watched Lafrenière and Adam Fox defend him from the locker room. The defender said it meant a lot to see two of his usually tame teammates defending him in this way.
“He took a teammate’s place, but, again, I don’t want him to fight a lot,” head coach Gerard Gallant said of Lafrenière before the Rangers went to Boston for their Friday morning against the Bruins. “But when you’re a team and you stick together, it does a lot of good with your teammates. For him to do that [Wednesday] night, it came a long way with his teammates.
Although Lafrenière was never known as a fighter in his three seasons with the Rimouski Oceanic in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League – and he probably never will be as such – he still adds dimensions. part of his game. Part of that is balancing his physical play with his intelligent approach to play that fuels his offensive abilities.
“I am not a fighter,” he said. “I’m not going to look for fights every game, but you never know what can happen. So I’m always ready, that’s for sure.