Sean Avery came back to the Garden last night in his only appearance this year as a member of the Dallas Stars, and the evening played out like his Rangers career conveniently condensed into a tidy three-hour recap. Naturally, he had some antics on the ice; he was booed every time he touched the puck by the same fans who worshipped him just six months ago. In vintage Avery fashion, he spent the pregame warm-ups yapping at the Rangers, then exchanged words with goalie Henrik Lundqvist on his very first shift. Then there was a typical Avery interview after the game with MSG Network’s Stan Fischler — the only interview he gave last night — in which, after a night of playing the villain, he sported that faux-innocent look he’s so expertly cultivated, even as he mocked Rangers backup goalie Steve Valiquette (calling him a “minor leaguer”).
And of course, there was a little controversy. Between the first and second period, Avery apparently got into a shouting match with MSG Network reporter John Giannone — one serious enough that a teammate had to step in to break things up. (Journal News beat writer Sam Weinman says he was told it was an Avery comment that escalated things, to no one’s surprise.) Is this commendable behavior? Of course not. But it’s the type of activity Ranger fans once loved: the wise-ass who’d do or say just about anything to the opponent, and even the opponent’s press, if that’s what was necessary. Yes, Avery was booed last night, and from a hockey standpoint, he’s been replaced nicely by newcomer Aaron Voros. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t missed.