Artem Anisimov Shoots for Some Airtime

A second period goal turns into a melee and a Lightning victory.

If someone told you that a member of the Rangers engaged in an over-the-top celebration of a goal that infuriated the opposition, touched off a melee and preceded to a comeback by a seemingly overmatched opposition, who would you choose?

Sean Avery, right? That sounds like about the most Sean Avery thing that's ever happened.

It wasn't Avery that dropped to his knee, aimed his stick like a rifle and pointed it at Tampa goalie Mathieu Garon after a beauty of a shorthanded goal in the second period, though.

It was the normally mild-mannered Artem Anisimov who pulled the move, touching off a near riot in the process and possibly inspiring the Lightning to keep the game close enough for them to steal at the end.

The Rangers led 2-1 after Anisimov's goal and they spent the first period dominating the visitors, who were playing without Martin St. Louis, but they could never break the thing open. That left an opportunity for Tampa to tie the game on a late shorthanded goal by former Ranger Dominic Moore and win it in a shootout.

It is hard to tie the loss directly to Anisimov's celebration. The Rangers had let the Lightning back into the game in the second period and, if anything, the fracas seemed to just move the needle even further in that direction.

They had plenty of good chances, but couldn't make them pay off and wound up losers in the standings.

They might have wound up winners on television, though. It is hard to come up with a reason why a player like Anisimov, normally about as controversial as plain yogurt, would suddenly start celebrating like hockey's version of Chad Ochocinco other than the fact that HBO is following the Rangers with cameras.

The buildup to the Winter Classic is in full effect, including the HBO preview show that could turn John Tortorella into a Rex Ryan-lite level of star thanks to his willingness to turn a phrase.

It's natural for mostly anonymous players to see those cameras as a chance to get themselves a bit of notice by doing things that they might not do if they weren't sure that they'd wind up on the same network as Game of Thrones.

Anisimov didn't talk about what happened after the game. Tortorella took the bullets in a cable-ready face-off with reporters, saying that Anisimov didn't really understand why everything went so crazy, that Tampa was justified for reacting the way they did and that Anisimov apologized to the rest of the Rangers.

It was the kind of moment that would make for a nice coda to a segment designed to introduce a member of the Rangers to the world before their New Year's matchup with the Flyers. With three weeks to go, it probably won't be the last time reality TV winds up infringing on reality.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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