THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEWARK, N.J. — After five games of running into, harassing and annoying Martin Brodeur, Sean Avery took a final swipe at the New Jersey goalie after the New York Rangers eliminated the Devils in the first round of the playoffs.
Avery ripped Brodeur for his lack of sportsmanship for failing to shake his hand after the Rangers beat the Devils 5-3 to win the Eastern Conference series in five games.
Every Devils player shook Avery’s hand — although some barely looked at him — until Brodeur dropped his hand and skated past the pesky forward.
"Everyone talks about how much class I don’t have," Avery said after breaking a series-long silence. "Well it’s the end of the series and men go to war against each other. I guess he forgot to shake my hand. I don’t know if anyone saw that. Of course I was going to shake his hand."
Brodeur didn’t seem to care.
"I just shook everybody’s hand but one," said Brodeur, who has led the Devils to three Stanley Cup championships.
Avery had a monster series, scoring three goals and setting up two others, including Scott Gomez’s tally late in the first period that gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead.
Avery also frustrated the Devils and Brodeur with his antics near the crease, the most notable being his zany face-guarding incident in Game 3 with the Rangers holding a two-man advantage.
Avery stood in front of Brodeur and waved his stick in front of the goaltender’s face trying to block his view. He eventually scored but many hockey purists felt his antics showed poor sportsmanship.
"I’ve played for 15 years in this league. I’ve been watching games for 33 years. I had never seen that in my life," Brodeur said at the time. "I don’t think that kind of behaviour should be done in front of the net, but there is no rule for it."
The following day, the NHL ruled his action was illegal.
"An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender’s face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play," Colin Campbell, the NHL director of hockey operations said in a statement.
.Avery didn’t use the play again in the series, but the Devils were frustrated. In the last two games they took runs at Avery and sometimes put themselves out of position.
Gomez’s goal in Game 5 resulted because John Madden slammed Avery into the boards behind the net and then left him all alone.
"I knew there was going to be a lot of attention on me," Avery said. "I don’t know the extent of it because I don’t read sports. I just try to stay focused. I played through (David) Clarkson trying to get me off my game. I try to do what was best for the team and I just wanted to play hard and win games."
The Rangers did.