Following a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Friday, Prust has been give a two-game suspension for the hit, which came less than three minutes into the first period of last night’s game, and went unpenalized.
Dan Rosen from NHL.com was among the first to Tweet the news.
Prust suspended 2 games. http://t.co/O2wShgObPx
— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) May 23, 2014
As you can see, Stepan banked the puck off off the boards ahead to teammate Chris Kreider when Prust, who played with the Rangers for parts of three seasons before coming to Montreal, came across the ice with a few strides and caught Stepan with a late, blindside hit, leaving the 23-year-old forward with a broken jaw, with surgery coming tonight, according to ESPN hockey writer Katie Strang.
Canadiens forward David Desharnais defended Prust on Friday, saying his hit “set the tone for the game.”
"It set the tone for the night. They may not have liked it, but it definitely woke everyone up."- Desharnais on Prust's hit on Stepan
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) May 23, 2014
Shortly after the hit, Rangers forward Derek Dorsett fought Prust, a melee resulting in Daniel Carcillo getting a game misconduct for hitting a linesman and earning an automatic 10-game suspension based on a Category 2 violation of Rule 40 in the NHL rulebook governing abuse of an official, though TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger Tweeted that he believes Carcillo will appeal it.
Here is the Department of Player Safety’s explanation video for Prust.
Prior to the suspension being levied, Dreger had an interesting window into the decision-making process.
NHL would have known the severity of Stepan's injury and yes this will impact the Safety Dept's decision on Prust suspension this afternoon.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) May 23, 2014
Also of note, the Rangers medical staff allowed Stepan, who was second on the Rangers in playoff scoring with 11 points in 17 games, to continue playing in Game 3, only making its diagnosis on the jaw on Friday, prompting some people to question whether the Rangers made the announcement to try and coerce the NHL into handing out a more severe punishment.
Either way, it’s the fourth suspension handed out by the Department of Player Safety during these playoffs (Again, Carcillo’s 10-game ban was automatic), and the second career playoff suspension for Prust, who was previously given a one-game ban for elbowing New Jersey Devils defenceman Anton Volchenkov in the back of the head during the 2012 playoffs.
The optics on this incident don’t look good on Prust, given that he implied Kreider intentionally ran Canadiens goaltender Carey Price in the second period of Game 1 and sidelining him for the rest of the series, only for him to follow up with a questionable hit of his own.
Either way, it’s yet another Original Six series where the bad blood has boiled over.