Matt Rempe Mania on pause after ejection in Rangers’ win over Devils

NEW YORK — Matt Rempe has been a sensation in pretty much every one of the 10 games he’s played in the NHL. Monday was no different, though there might not be an 11th game for a little while.

The 21-year-old Rangers forward was ejected for the second time in his brief NHL career, this time late in the second period for an elbow to the jaw of Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler in the Rangers’ 3-1 win.

Rempe went in for a hit on Siegenthaler along the side wall but stuck his arm out, which resulted in Rempe’s elbow catching Siegenthaler flush in the face. Devils forward Kurtis MacDermid, who had challenged Rempe to a fight early in the first period, dropped his gloves and tried to get through the linesmen at Rempe but was restrained. As both players were escorted off the ice, Rempe waved at MacDermid, sending the Garden fans into cheers.

The Rangers killed off the major penalty with relative ease. With the Rangers heading immediately to Carolina to face the Hurricanes on Tuesday, NHL Player Safety should send notice of a hearing in short order on Tuesday.

Rempe’s first ejection was also against the Devils back on Feb. 22. He hit Nathan Bastian up high, drawing blood and another five-minute major, though there was no suspension that followed. MacDermid, who wasn’t even a member of the Devils for that game, challenged Rempe early on Monday presumably to answer for the Bastian hit, but Rempe declined the invitation.

“There’s a bit of a code, and I thought he would’ve answered that,” MacDermid said. “I don’t know what he was told, but he said no. After a hit like that, it goes without saying you should answer the bell in some way, be a man about it.”

And Rempe just had a very impactful shift before his elbowing major and ejection. He’s a wing but Barclay Goodrow was tossed from the faceoff circle in the Devils zone, so Rempe, who has played a bit of center in AHL Hartford, stepped in for the draw against Devils captain Nico Hischier. Rempe won enough of it for the Rangers to gain possession and he went to the front of the net, where he screened Devils goalie Kaapo Kahkonen well enough to allow Erik Gustafsson’s wrist shot to sail through for a 2-0 lead.

“I thought he had a strong game up to that point,” Peter Laviolette said of Rempe. “Total credit on the goal for him. He had a good shift, so I ended up leaving them out there. I don’t want to comment too much on the hit — I saw it live, then I was trying to look down at a replay and see it through the plexiglass (over the small television screen in the floor of the bench). It’s difficult. I do hope Siegenthaler is OK.”

Devils interim coach Travis Green said after the game that Siegenthaler was, in fact, “not doing great.”

“The player is in a vulnerable spot,” Green said. “Everyone knows in hockey that a D-man getting the line has one leg in the air. He’s in a very vulnerable spot there. A big guy coming across, I think there’s some intent there to injure the player.”

The game was a strong one for the Rangers, who had the Devils sitting on 15 shots on goal until the final minutes of the game. Mika Zibanejad scored his 20th, his first five-on-five goal since Dec. 23, and the Rangers peppered Kahkonen early and often. The Devils looked like a team that sold off some pieces at Friday’s deadline and haven’t found their footing at all this season.

Jonathan Quick won his 389th career game, two shy of Ryan Miller for the all-time record for an American goaltender. And the Rangers maintained a four-point gap on the Hurricanes, who they face in Raleigh on Tuesday at the start of a three-game road trip.

They likely won’t have Rempe in the lineup for at least Tuesday’s game and possibly more. Illegal checks to the head — “picking” the head is the term that Player Safety uses — are almost always multiple-game suspensions. Rempe’s enthusiasm and energy have been infectious for the fans and the Rangers, who are now 7-2-1 with him in the lineup. But that enthusiasm coupled with inexperience can lead to moments like Monday’s, when the desire to be physical and have an impact is a bit overwhelming.

The Devils come back to the Garden on April 3. They will almost certainly have nothing to play for by then, but Monday’s events will be front of mind that night.

MacDermid said he understood why the officials prevented him from getting at Rempe on Monday, as the enforcer was hoping he could have “taught (Rempe) a lesson.”

“There’s a right way to go about things and a wrong way,” MacDermid said. “I kind of lost a lot of respect for him.

The little wave from Rempe didn’t sit well either.

“He’s a young kid in this league,” MacDermid said. “He has a lot to learn still. You don’t do things like that your first year in the league especially.”

(Photo: Jared Silber / NHLI via Getty Images)

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