Here’s Josh Thomson’s story from The Journal News and Lohud.com:
By Josh Thomson
NEW YORK – The NHL levied a two-game suspension on Montreal’s Brandon Prust for his brutal Game 3 hit on Derek Stepan, but, of the two teams, the play could leave the Rangers with the more important hole in their lineup.
The club announced Friday that Stepan suffered a broken jaw on the hit and was due to undergo surgery Friday night.
“I’ll have more of an idea after the operation,” coach Alain Vigneault said.
Stepan has skated in all 17 games this postseason and is tied for second on the Rangers with 11 points. He assisted on Chris Kreider’s goal with 28.1 seconds left in regulation that forced overtime Thursday night.
Stepan played a total of 17:46 in Game 3 despite spending nearly six minutes in the locker room during the first period. He received an X-ray, which the team said was negative, and doctors cleared him to return to the ice. It wasn’t until the pain persisted that Stepan received a more thorough evaluation from a specialist Friday morning and learned that his jaw was broken.
The injury occured 2:45 into the first period when Prust dropped Stepan nearly a full second after the latter had chipped the puck off the boards to skirt Montreal’s Thomas Vanek. Prust drove his shoulder into Stepan’s upper body, but the play was deemed a head shot by the league, which was aware of the injury before its phone hearing with the former Ranger.
Instead, the explanation from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety identified the hit as interference. It based Prust’s suspension on the penalty, Stepan’s injury and Prust’s history.
While with the Rangers in 2012, Prust earned a one-game ban during the conference final for elbowing the Devils’ Anton Volchenkov. (Carl Hagelin sat for three games earlier that postseason for elbowing Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson.)
“Obviously, the four referees missed the call. Stepan is injured,” Vigneault said of the hit. “The same player called the hit on (Carey) Price ‘accidental but on purpose,’ but a late hit, everything you want to get out of the game, that was his hit on Stepan.”
The Canadiens disagreed, citing Chris Kreider’s collision with Price in Game 1 that knocked the Montreal goalie out for the series. Kreider was not suspended, and Prust was among those who suggested contact could’ve been avoided.
“His intention was not to hurt anyone,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. “Like Kreider, his intention, even if he was going hard to the net and then laying on Carey Price, I’m sure his intention was not to hurt Carey Price. Brandon Prust, he tried to finish his check. His intention, honestly, was not to hurt Stepan.”
Series at a glance
Rangers 7, Canadiens 2
Rangers 3, Canadiens 1
Canadiens 3, Rangers 2 (OT)
Game 4: At Rangers, Sunday, 8 p.m.
Game 5: At Montreal, Tuesday, 8 p.m.
x-Game 6: At Rangers, Thursday, 8 p.m.
x-Game 7: At Montreal, May 31, 8 p.m.
Photo by Getty Images.