Rangers-Habs war of attrition continues

New York Rangers, Derek Stepan

Derek Stepan, New York Rangers. Image courtesy of WIkimedia Commons.

When the New York Rangers spanked the Montreal Canadiens 7-2 in the first game of the Eastern Conference Final, the Habs lost more than their dignity — goaltender Carey Price was run into by Rangers forward Chris Krieder, and was later deemed unable to return to the series.

Without Price in net, many counted out the Canadiens. Rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarsi entered the series in Game 2. The Habs lost the game not because of their own goalie’s inability to save them as Price had done in the series prior against the Boston Bruins, but because Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was incredible for his team, stopping 40 of the 41 shots he faced.

Price was not the only one lost to injury in Game 1. Rangers centre Derick Brassard left the series’ first game with injury and has yet to return to the lineup.

The series has lost players, but its also seen one return from lengthy injury. The Canadiens welcomed back second-year scorer, forward Alex Galchenyuk, in Game 2. The former first-round pick from 2012 scored the overtime game-winner in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden to salvage the series for the Canadiens, who now trail 2-1 in wins.

Letting the Canadiens back in the series when the alternative was taking a stranglehold 3-0 series lead is bad enough for New York. But the worst news for the Rangers is that they lost another crucial centreman to injury, joining Brassard on the sidelines.

In the first-period of Game 3, Montreal Canadiens grinder — and former New York Ranger — Brandon Prust, laid a late head hit on Blueshirt centre Derek Stepan. The referees missed the hit and did not call a penalty. Stepan left the game, but returned.

Today, it was announced by Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault that his reliable centre suffered a fractured jaw courtesy of Prust’s late hate.

 

Here’s the hit:

At this point, it’s not clear if Stepan will continue to play against the Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Final, nor has it been determined whether Brassard — whose injury appears to be minor — is ready to return in time for Game 4 in Montreal this coming Sunday.

With Stepan and Brassard out — assuming neither plays for the Blueshirts in Game 4 — the Canadiens can take advantage of a massive opportunity and potentially tie the series, regaining home ice advantage.

Prust has a hearing with the NHL’s discipline office today at 4:00 PM. Word of his punishment for the late hit against Stepan will likely be announced this evening, or perhaps tomorrow. Prust’s suspension length is anyone’s guess, but one player’s fate has been determined already.

Rangers enforcer Daniel Carcillo was ejected from Game 3 for abusing an official. Today the NHL suspended Carcillo for 10 games because of his actions.

Game 4 is crucial for both clubs. The Rangers can take a commanding 3-1 series lead by winning.  The Canadiens, conversely, can tie things up and leave New York with home ice advantage, needing to win 2 of 3.