Canadiens coach Michel Therrien gave his players the day off in New York Friday after Thursday night’s 3-2 overtime victory over the Rangers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers lead the series 2-1.
Brandon Prust had a phone hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety Friday afternoon for his hit on Derek Stepan during the first period of Game 3. No penalty was called on the late hit and Stepan left the game briefly before returning.
On Friday morning, the Rangers announced that Stepan suffered a broken jaw and just after 5 p.m. the NHL announced that Prust has been suspended for two games.
“What elevates this hit to merit supplemental discipline is its extreme lateness and the significant head contact that results from the way it is delivered,” the NHL said in a video ruling.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault met with the media in New York Friday morning and revealed that Stepan had a broken jaw as a result of the hit from Prust.
“Step right now, at this time, is probably getting operated on,” Vigneault said. “He broke his jaw yesterday, so we’ll have an idea of the time frame tomorrow.”
The NHL also announced on Friday that Rangers forward Daniel Carcillo has been automatically suspended for 10 games after being assessed a game misconduct in Game 3 for making physical contact with linesman Scott Driscoll while being escorted to the penalty box.
Vigneault was asked about emotions heating up in the series.
“I think as games progress in series the competitive nature of players and coaches comes out,” the coach said. “Obviously, every game has their moments. Every game has their incidents where sometimes blood can boil on one side or the other.
“Yesterday there was an incident where Prust hit Stepan. That incident obviously – four referees missed the call. Stepan is injured. The same player (Prust) that called the hit on (Carey) 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.”
You can listen to audio of Vigneault’s press conference by clicking here.
Therrien met with the media at the Canadiens’ New York hotel Friday afternoon and commented on Stepan’s broken jaw before the NHL had announced Prust’s suspension.
“If anybody knows what it’s like to lose a player, it’s us,” Therrien said. “We lost Carey Price in the first game of the series because of that hit by (Chris) Kreider and we felt frustrated at the time. We’re still frustrated to lose our No. 1 goalie.”
Therrien added about Prust: “His intention was not to hurt him, and Kreider – even if he was going hard to the net – I think his intention was not to hurt Carey Price and, honestly, Brandon Prust was trying to finish his check.”
David Desharnais was one of three Canadiens players made available to the media Friday – along with Lars Eller and Tomas Plekanec – and was asked about Prust’s hit.
“With that hit (Prust) set the tone, and they’re not happy about it, but you set the tone for the game and it creates a rivalry right there,” Desharnais said.
Said Plekanec: “You don’t want to see guys getting hurt. It’s part of hockey, and with Price, the same thing happened to us. It’s unfortunate. You don’t want to see that, but it happens.”
Eller was asked how long it takes to create a rivalry with another team.
“That’s something we talked about before this series,” he said. “Naturally, maybe there is not that rivalry or that hatred for each other the same way that we have with Boston. You have to hate them, yeah, you have to hate them. It shouldn’t be hard to get motivation for the conference final, but it is a little different. There is no problem getting motivation now.”
You can listen to audio of Therrien’s Friday press conference by clicking here.
The Canadiens got some good news Friday when the NHL announced that Marc Bergevin is one of three finalists for the General Manager of the Year Award, along with Dean Lombardi of the Los Angeles Kings and Bob Murray of the Anaheim Ducks.
Game 4 is Sunday Night at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690). The Canadiens will open the Bell Centre for fans to watch the game on the giant screens, selling tickets for $10. For more information, click here.
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
(Videos by The Gazette’s Brenda Branswell)