Drama ratcheted up in Canadiens-Rangers series

NEW YORK — Surgery, suspensions and thuggery. The storylines surrounding the Eastern Conference final reached Shakespearean proportions Friday.

NEW YORK — Surgery, suspensions and thuggery. The storylines surrounding the Eastern Conference final reached Shakespearean proportions Friday.

As he was in Game 3 Thursday night, Montreal fourth-liner Brandon Prust was slap bang in the middle of the mayhem.

What had seemed like a quiet off-day quickly turned dramatic when New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault revealed that forward Derek Stepan, laid out by an unpenalized blindside hit from Prust two minutes 45 seconds into the game, had suffered a broken jaw that needed surgery.

Three hours later, Rangers agitator Dan Carcillo was suspended 10 games for physical abuse of an official on a play that came minutes after the Prust hit, as New York looked for retribution.

The Carcillo incident came 5:51 into Thursday’s game after a fight between Derek Dorsett of the Rangers and Prust. Carcillo, a fourth-liner, had been penalized for charging Prust on the play.

The league said Carcillo “physically applied force to linesman Scott Driscoll while being escorted to the penalty box.”

The suspension was automatic under category 2 of Rule 40.3, titled Physical Abuse of Officials.

Prust, meanwhile, was handed a two-game suspension for interference for the Stepan hit later Friday.

It has added more drama to a series that saw Montreal’s all-world goalie Carey Price sent to the sidelines in Game 1 after coming out the worst for wear in a collision with six-foot-three, 230-pound Ranger Chris Kreider.

For Vigneault, the missed Prust call Thursday set off a domino effect whose ripples were still being felt the next day.

“Four referees missed the call,” Vigneault said. “Stepan is injured. The same player that called the hit on Price ’accidental but on purpose.’ Late hit, everything that you want to get out of the game, that was his hit on Stepan.

“And what saddens me about that hit is, if the call is made on the ice, we’re on a five-minute power play, and what happened to Dan Carcillo, and what Dan did is inexcusable, and he’s going to pay a big price for it, but if the call is made on the ice, he’s not put in that position.

“So it’s unfortunate. Step (Stepan) right now at this time is probably getting operated on. He broke his jaw (Thursday), so we’ll have an idea of the time frame (Saturday). But those are stuff that happens during the game that you have to deal with, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Dressed in jeans and flip-flops, Vigneault looked like he was in relaxation mode. But he was clearly irate at a sequence of events which he believes could have been avoided.

Stepan went briefly to the dressing room after the hit, yelling over his shoulder at Prust as he exited. But he returned later in the period and amazingly played a total of 17:45 in the game.

A team spokesman said X-rays that night were negative. But Stepan was in pain and saw a specialist Friday, when further tests detected the broken jaw.

It seems unlikely that Stepan, who centres Rick Nash and Kreider on the Rangers top line, will be back any time soon.

New York leads the series to two games to one.

Prust, a former Ranger who counts Canadian UFC lightweight Sam (Hands of Stone) Stout as a friend, was not made available Friday as both teams, skipping practice in advance of Game 4 Sunday, offered up their coaches and select players.

Montreal coach Michel Therrien defended his player.

“His intention was not to hurt anyone,” he 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.”

Then Therrien suggested the Canadiens knew better than anybody about losing a star player.

“If there is a team that can understand the loss of a player, it’s us. We lost Carey Price in the first game of the series with the hit on Kreider when he hit Carey Price, and we felt frustrated at the time. We’re still frustrated not having our goalie, our No. 1 most important player.”

Therrien, taking a page from Vigneault’s book from the Price injury debate, called it “a hockey hit.”

Habs forward David Desharnais called it a clean hit, with Prust just wanting to get his team going.

“You never want to see a guy injured like that but, like I said, we were fighting for our lives (Thursday) and we wanted to set the tone,” he said.

At five foot seven, Desharnais is one of the Hobbit-like Canadiens. But the first-liner wins praise from his coach for his compete level. And he knows the value of getting under an opponent’s skin, as Prust clearly did in Game 3.

“They were not happy about it,” he said of the Rangers. “Everybody got a little chirp here and there and the game was on.”

A day later, the Rangers still wanted justice.

“I think guys were unhappy there wasn’t a call on the play,” Kreider told reporters. “Obviously, it was away from the play so not a lot of people saw it. But I think the sentiment today is the same as it was yesterday, that it wasn’t a clean hit. Hopefully the league deals with it justly.”

Just Posted

Optimism remains for Red Deer hospital expansion

Red Deer’s incoming UCP MLAs both have been strong supporters of expansion

Sport of axe throwing growing in Red Deer

True North Axe Throwing wants sport to be ‘Canadian version of darts’

RDC cancels championship-winning golf program due to tight finances

Short season, small number of student golfers were also considerations

Fire investigators comb through industrial fire wreckage looking for answers

Industrial building in north Red Deer was completely gutted in Wednesday morning fire

WATCH: An ‘Eggstemely Fun Easter’ at Bower Place in Red Deer

Bower Place mall made sure Red Deer families were able to have… Continue reading

Dozens hurt in collapse of deck during wedding celebration in Langley, B.C.

LANGLEY, B.C. — Police say dozens of people were injured, some critically,… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $25 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $25.5 million jackpot… Continue reading

Uber driver charged in two sexual assault investigations: Toronto police

Toronto police say an Uber driver is facing sexual assault charges in… Continue reading

PEI Green party candidate Josh Underhay and son killed in canoeing accident

CHARLOTTETOWN — With only a few days before voters were to go… Continue reading

Egyptians vote on changes that would extend el-Sissi’s rule

CAIRO — Egyptians cast their ballots Saturday on the first of three… Continue reading

Ex-Marine arrested in North Korea embassy attack in Madrid

WASHINGTON — A man suspected of involvement in a mysterious dissident group’s… Continue reading

New bout of heavy fighting in Yemen kills dozens

SANAA, Yemen — Yemeni officials say heavy fighting in Yemen’s southern Dhale… Continue reading

Most Read