Used to the backlash, Rangers’ Jacob Trouba explains controversial elbow

Watch as New York Rangers' Jacob Trouba dodges a major penalty despite elbowing Panthers' Evan Rodrigues to his head.

SUNRISE, Fla. — Jacob Trouba got a slap on the wrist and a reminder that his brand of hockey isn’t appreciated much outside New York City.

The New York Rangers captain, who earns $8 million annually, was hit with a $5,000 fine (the maximum allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement) Monday for the controversial elbow he delivered to Florida Panthers forward Evan Rodrigues midway through the Rangers’ 5-4 overtime victory.

“Take the hat, pass it around,” quipped Florida coach Paul Maurice, who guided Trouba back in their Winnipeg days. “Poor lad. Poor Jake. He won’t be able to eat.”

Yes, Trouba says, he knew he was already on the hook for a delayed slashing call when he initiated the hit.

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No, Trouba doesn’t believe the play deserved five minutes — though anytime a penalty goes to review, there is concern.

And, no, he is not fazed by the backlash he’s getting from fans and analysts who believe his aggression was worthy of the two-minute minor referees Kevin Sutherland and Eric Furlatt decided upon after reviewing the play.

“It’s been like that for a while now,” Trouba said with a shrug on Monday in Sunrise, Fla. “It’s not anything new.”

Trouba has a history of borderline hits. He was suspended two games (and fined $83,333.34) as recently as January for elbowing Vegas Golden Knights forward Pavel Dorofeyev. And he memorably sidelined Sidney Crosby in the Rangers-Penguins first-round series in 2022.

The Rodrigues check was one of three penalties Trouba took and six the Rangers committed in Game 3. And with the Panthers striking twice on the power play, the hard-nosed defenceman admits he and the club must be more disciplined.

“All happens pretty fast. It’s not something you’re thinking about a thousand times over and over again. Just happens fast. It’s hockey. I don’t have a good explanation for you,” said Trouba, downplaying the elbow. “I didn’t think it was anything that crazy.”

Rodrigues hit the deck and left the game, only to return and gather an assist on Gustav Forsling’s third-period tying goal that forced overtime.

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While Panthers fans paint Trouba as a villain, Rangers fans are pointing to Dmitry Kulikov’s hard hit on Alex Wennberg (also reduced from a major) in Game 2. Or to Ryan Lomberg’s late hit taking Jimmy Vesey out of the series.

Trouba was asked by a Rangers beat reporter if the Panthers are guilty of embellishment.

“I don’t know,” Trouba replied, smiling. “No comment.”

What we know for sure is that Trouba’s coach, Peter Laviolette, doesn’t want him to bend his style of play to the wishes of the critics.

“Listen. I think we need that physical presence. That’s something that he brings, and he brings it all the time. We’re in a physical series right now, so we need guys playing hard and playing physical. And he’s somebody that we can count on to do that,” Laviolette said.

“You know, there’s some [penalties] that I don’t necessarily agree with last night, that he went to the box on, and so it is what it is. But from what he brings to the team for his physical presence, our group needs that. He’s been consistent with it, really, his whole career. And we’re in a series right now when we need it.”

So, heads up for another hard-hitting event Tuesday night.

“Won Game 3. Move on to Game 4,” Trouba said. “I don’t really make much of it.”

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