League to review Brandon Prust hit

Updated: May 23, 2014, 10:51 AM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- There was no love lost between former teammates Derek Stepan and Brandon Prust in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals between the New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens.

After the Rangers' 3-2 overtime loss Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, Stepan called out the ex-Ranger for his first-period hit. Prust drilled an unsuspecting Stepan with his shoulder in the neutral zone, a hit that was questionably late and high and left Stepan down on the ice for several minutes.

Stepan eventually got up and left the ice on his own. He returned to the game later in the opening frame, but he wasn't happy about the hit afterward.

"I mean, I can sit here and pick apart the hit," Stepan said, sporting a sizable gash on his right cheek. "I personally think it's late. I think the main contact is my face."

Prust will have a hearing Friday, according to the league's department of player safety.

[+] EnlargeDerek Stepan
Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY SportsDerek Stepan was down for several minutes after Brandon Prust's hit in the first period.
Rangers fans immediately turned on Prust -- a beloved fan favorite before he left Broadway to sign a four-year, $10 million deal with the Habs as a free agent in the summer of 2012 -- booing him each time he had the puck for the remainder of the game.

Was Stepan surprised to be on the receiving end of such a hit from a former teammate?

"Doesn't matter," he said. "It's a bad hit."

Stepan said he felt like he got blindsided, as well.

"I never saw him," he said. "Not from the time I got the puck to the time I moved it. I even got some strides in before I got hit. I never saw him coming."

Asked whether he hopes the NHL's Department of Player Safety will review the play, which went unpenalized, Stepan said, "I would certainly hope the league would look at it."

The hit elevated the rancor and nastiness between the teams early in the first period. Not long after the play, Rangers forward Daniel Carcillo was hit with a two-minute charging minor for his hit on Prust. And when Prust answered the bell and dropped the gloves with Derek Dorsett, Carcillo was given a game misconduct at 5:51.

NHL linesman Steve Driscoll grabbed onto Carcillo's stick in an attempt to separate him from the action, after which Carcillo appeared agitated. Attempting to resist Driscoll, Carcillo struck the official with his right elbow, after which he was tossed from the game.

Two sources told ESPNNewYork.com that the officiating crew will have discretion over exactly how they characterize the game misconduct and, ultimately, whether Carcillo will miss any time as a result.

The NHL's Rule 40, Physical Abuse of an Official, provides the latitude to dish out an automatic suspension of varying length, depending on the severity. The officials may also choose to classify Carcillo's transgression as something that falls under a different rule.

Regardless, the club likely won't know of the league's intention until at least Friday, with two off days between Games 3 and 4.

"You can't do what he did there. We'll let the league handle that," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.

Vigneault did, however, take a subtle jab at the officiating.

"If the penalty would've been called on Prust, that probably wouldn't have happened," he said. "But there's nothing we can do about it."

Carcillo was not made available to the media after the game.

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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