NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Twenty-four hours ago the Rangers were flying sky high, but a high hit and a shocking loss later, not so much.
The Rangers got some potentially bad news Friday, learning forward Derek Stepan suffered a broken jaw during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday. His status for the remainder of the series is unclear.
“Step right now, at this time, is probably getting operated on. He broke his jaw yesterday, so we’ll have an idea of the time frame tomorrow,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “That’s stuff that happens in a game that you have to deal with and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Stepan, who is tied for second on the team with 11 points in 17 playoff games, got injured on a high, late hit by Montreal’s Brandon Prust early in the first period on Thursday. Stepan left the ice to be examined, but later returned. The initial X-rays of his jaw came back negative, but more detailed scans on Friday morning found the fracture. He was to have surgery Friday evening, according to reports.
“I never saw him. From the time I got the puck to the time I moved it,” Stepan said after Game 3. “I even got some strides in before I got hit and I never saw him the whole time.”
Prust was not penalized for the hit, but was suspended two games by the NHL’s Safety Department on Friday afternoon.
“Brandon Prust’s intention was not to hurt Derek Stepan. It was to finish his check,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. “It was a hockey hit and obviously Stepan got hurt on it.”
For the most part the Canadiens tread lightly around the Stepan questions on Friday, but forward Tomas Plekanec didn’t hesitate to mention the loss of goaltender Carey Price during Game 1 due to a hit by the Rangers’ Chris Kreider that many on the Montreal side suggested was no accident.
“Yeah, 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,” Plekanec said.
Minutes after the hit on Stepan the Rangers’ Dan Carcillo and Derek Dorsett went after Prust. While Dorsett and Prust dropped the gloves, Carcillo had an altercation with linesman Scott Driscoll that resulted in him receiving a game misconduct. On Friday afternoon he was suspended 10 games for physical abuse of officials.
There was no immediate word on whether Carcillo would appeal the ban.
“The four referees missed the call (and) Stepan is injured. The same player (Prust) that called the (Chris Kreider) hit on (Carey) Price ‘accidentally on purpose,” Vigneault said. “What saddens me about that hit, if the call is made on the ice, we’re on a five-minute power play and what happened to Dan Carcillo – which 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.”
The Canadiens went on to win Thursday’s game 3-2 in overtime and will be looking to even the series when the teams meet Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
Stepan has yet to miss a game in his four-year NHL career. He had 17 goals and 40 assists during the regular season, a slight drop from his 44 points in 48 games in the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
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