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Rangers’ Stepan breaks jaw on hit from Prust

  • In this May 22, 2014 file photo, New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) lies on the ice after taking a hit from Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals in New York. Stepan has a broken jaw and is undergoing surgery. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault made the surprising announcement Friday, May 23, 2014,  on the first of two off days in the series New York leads 2-1. Prust wasn't penalized in the first period of Montreal's 3-2 overtime win Thursday night, but he faces an NHL hearing Friday and a possible suspension. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

    In this May 22, 2014 file photo, New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) lies on the ice after taking a hit from Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals in New York. Stepan has a broken jaw and is undergoing surgery. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault made the surprising announcement Friday, May 23, 2014, on the first of two off days in the series New York leads 2-1. Prust wasn't penalized in the first period of Montreal's 3-2 overtime win Thursday night, but he faces an NHL hearing Friday and a possible suspension. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • In this May 22, 2014 photo, a staff member examines New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) after Stepan took a hit from Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals in New York. Stepan has a broken jaw and is undergoing surgery. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault made the surprising announcement Friday, May 23, 2014,  on the first of two off days in the series New York leads 2-1. Prust wasn't penalized in the first period of Montreal's 3-2 overtime win Thursday night, but he faces an NHL hearing Friday and a possible suspension. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

    In this May 22, 2014 photo, a staff member examines New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) after Stepan took a hit from Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals in New York. Stepan has a broken jaw and is undergoing surgery. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault made the surprising announcement Friday, May 23, 2014, on the first of two off days in the series New York leads 2-1. Prust wasn't penalized in the first period of Montreal's 3-2 overtime win Thursday night, but he faces an NHL hearing Friday and a possible suspension. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • In this May 22, 2014 photo, a staff member examines New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) after Stepan took a hit from Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals in New York. Stepan has a broken jaw and is undergoing surgery. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault made the surprising announcement Friday, May 23, 2014,  on the first of two off days in the series New York leads 2-1. Prust wasn't penalized in the first period of Montreal's 3-2 overtime win Thursday night, but he faces an NHL hearing Friday and a possible suspension. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

    In this May 22, 2014 photo, a staff member examines New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) after Stepan took a hit from Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals in New York. Stepan has a broken jaw and is undergoing surgery. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault made the surprising announcement Friday, May 23, 2014, on the first of two off days in the series New York leads 2-1. Prust wasn't penalized in the first period of Montreal's 3-2 overtime win Thursday night, but he faces an NHL hearing Friday and a possible suspension. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • In this May 22, 2014 photo, New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) leaves the ice with a member of the Rangers staff after taking a hit from Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals in New York. Stepan has a broken jaw and is undergoing surgery. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault made the surprising announcement Friday, May 23, 2014,  on the first of two off days in the series New York leads 2-1. Prust wasn't penalized in the first period of Montreal's 3-2 overtime win Thursday night, but he faces an NHL hearing Friday and a possible suspension. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

    In this May 22, 2014 photo, New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) leaves the ice with a member of the Rangers staff after taking a hit from Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals in New York. Stepan has a broken jaw and is undergoing surgery. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault made the surprising announcement Friday, May 23, 2014, on the first of two off days in the series New York leads 2-1. Prust wasn't penalized in the first period of Montreal's 3-2 overtime win Thursday night, but he faces an NHL hearing Friday and a possible suspension. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • Montreal Canadiens' Brandon Prust yells after fighting during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers, Thursday, May 22, 2014, in New York. The Canadiens defeated the Rangers in overtime, 3-2. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

    Montreal Canadiens' Brandon Prust yells after fighting during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers, Thursday, May 22, 2014, in New York. The Canadiens defeated the Rangers in overtime, 3-2. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

  • Montreal Canadiens' Brandon Prust yells after fighting during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers, Thursday, May 22, 2014, in New York. The Canadiens beat the Rangers in overtime 3-2. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

    Montreal Canadiens' Brandon Prust yells after fighting during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers, Thursday, May 22, 2014, in New York. The Canadiens beat the Rangers in overtime 3-2. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

  • New York Rangers' Derek Stepan (21) and Ryan Callahan (24) celebrate Stepan's goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, April 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

    New York Rangers' Derek Stepan (21) and Ryan Callahan (24) celebrate Stepan's goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, April 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

  • As Boston Bruins fans watch, Montreal Canadiens right wing Dale Weise (22) celebrates his goal with teammate Brandon Prust (8) during the first period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Boston, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. (AP Photo)

    As Boston Bruins fans watch, Montreal Canadiens right wing Dale Weise (22) celebrates his goal with teammate Brandon Prust (8) during the first period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Boston, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. (AP Photo)

  • New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) celebrates with teammate Daniel Carcillo (13) after a 3-2 overtime win in Game 1 of a second-round NHL hockey playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Friday, May 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

    New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) celebrates with teammate Daniel Carcillo (13) after a 3-2 overtime win in Game 1 of a second-round NHL hockey playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Friday, May 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

  • In this May 22, 2014 file photo, New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) lies on the ice after taking a hit from Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals in New York. Stepan has a broken jaw and is undergoing surgery. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault made the surprising announcement Friday, May 23, 2014,  on the first of two off days in the series New York leads 2-1. Prust wasn't penalized in the first period of Montreal's 3-2 overtime win Thursday night, but he faces an NHL hearing Friday and a possible suspension. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
  • In this May 22, 2014 photo, a staff member examines New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) after Stepan took a hit from Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals in New York. Stepan has a broken jaw and is undergoing surgery. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault made the surprising announcement Friday, May 23, 2014,  on the first of two off days in the series New York leads 2-1. Prust wasn't penalized in the first period of Montreal's 3-2 overtime win Thursday night, but he faces an NHL hearing Friday and a possible suspension. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
  • In this May 22, 2014 photo, a staff member examines New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) after Stepan took a hit from Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals in New York. Stepan has a broken jaw and is undergoing surgery. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault made the surprising announcement Friday, May 23, 2014,  on the first of two off days in the series New York leads 2-1. Prust wasn't penalized in the first period of Montreal's 3-2 overtime win Thursday night, but he faces an NHL hearing Friday and a possible suspension. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
  • In this May 22, 2014 photo, New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) leaves the ice with a member of the Rangers staff after taking a hit from Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals in New York. Stepan has a broken jaw and is undergoing surgery. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault made the surprising announcement Friday, May 23, 2014,  on the first of two off days in the series New York leads 2-1. Prust wasn't penalized in the first period of Montreal's 3-2 overtime win Thursday night, but he faces an NHL hearing Friday and a possible suspension. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
  • Montreal Canadiens' Brandon Prust yells after fighting during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers, Thursday, May 22, 2014, in New York. The Canadiens defeated the Rangers in overtime, 3-2. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
  • Montreal Canadiens' Brandon Prust yells after fighting during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers, Thursday, May 22, 2014, in New York. The Canadiens beat the Rangers in overtime 3-2. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
  • New York Rangers' Derek Stepan (21) and Ryan Callahan (24) celebrate Stepan's goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, April 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
  • As Boston Bruins fans watch, Montreal Canadiens right wing Dale Weise (22) celebrates his goal with teammate Brandon Prust (8) during the first period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Boston, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. (AP Photo)
  • New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) celebrates with teammate Daniel Carcillo (13) after a 3-2 overtime win in Game 1 of a second-round NHL hockey playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Friday, May 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

NEW YORK – The New York Rangers’ smooth ride to the Stanley Cup finals has suddenly become much rougher.

Not only did the Broadway Blueshirts let the Montreal Canadiens back into the Eastern Conference finals with a 3-2 overtime victory Thursday at Madison Square Garden, they might have to play without top forward Derek Stepan, whose broken jaw required surgery yesterday.

The Rangers will carry a 2-1 series lead into tomorrow’s Game 4, but finishing off the Canadiens could be more difficult if Stepan is sidelined for long.

The center was injured 2:48 in when he was struck by a hard, blindside hit from Montreal’s Brandon Prust, who wasn’t penalized for the shot that left Stepan sprawled on the ice for several moments. Prust had a disciplinary hearing with the NHL yesterday and was given a two-game suspension for interference by the league’s department of player safety. He would be eligible to play in Game 6 should the series last that long.

Stepan got up after the hit, had X-rays taken that were negative, and returned to the game. But pain later Thursday night and again yesterday prompted the Rangers to send him to a specialist. Further tests and scans revealed the fracture.

His playing status is unclear, but Rangers Coach Alain Vigneault said more would be known today. With a two-day break before Game 4, both teams stayed off the ice yesterday.

Vigneault had already proclaimed Thursday that the on-ice officials failed in not penalizing Prust. He hammered the point home yesterday and took issue with Prust, who was critical of New York forward Chris Kreider’s collision with Carey Price in Game 1 that knocked the Canadiens’ No. 1 goalie out of the series.

“Four referees missed the call. Stepan is injured,” Vigneault said. “The same player that called the hit on Price ‘accidental but on purpose.’

“Late hit, everything that you want to get out of the game, that was his hit on Stepan. What saddens me about that hit is, if the call is made on the ice, we’re on a five-minute power play.”

Prust, a fan favorite when he previously played for the Rangers, was hit from behind at 5:51 of the first period by New York enforcer Daniel Carcillo, who was penalized for charging. That immediately led to Prust fighting Derek Dorsett. During that altercation, Carcillo twice elbowed linesman Steve Driscoll, who was trying to keep him out of the fray, and was ejected from the game.

Carcillo was given an automatic 10-game suspension by the NHL yesterday for physical abuse on an official without intent to injure.

“What Dan did was inexcusable, and he’s going to pay a big price for it,” Vigneault said, “but if the call is made on the ice, he’s not put in that situation.”

The 23-year-old Stepan, who has three playoff goals and is second on the team with 11 points, was out of action for about six minutes before returning to play. He had an assist on Kreider’s tying goal with 28.1 seconds left in regulation – extending his point and assist streak to five games – and registered two shots in 17 minutes, 46 seconds of ice time.

New York is already missing forward Derick Brassard, who has sat out two games after hurting his shoulder in the opener. Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller could rejoin the lineup for Game 4.

The Canadiens, still reeling from the series-ending injury to Price in the opener, were fired up by Prust’s hit. Montreal rallied from a 1-0 deficit, took a 2-1 lead on Danny Briere’s goal with 3:02 left in regulation, and shook off Kreider’s tying tally to win it when 20-year-old center Alex Galchenyuk netted the overtime winner at 1:12.

“Prusty was trying to set the tone,” Canadiens center David Desharnais said yesterday. “I thought it was a good hit. You never want to injure somebody, but it set the tone for the game.”

Price was shut down because of a suspected knee injury after Kreider barreled into him while driving to the net last Saturday. The Canadiens went from saying the hit was probably accidental to that it could have been avoided, to Coach Michel Therrien calling it “reckless.” Therrien defended Prust yesterday.

“Brandon Prust’s intention was not to hurt Derek Stepan. It was to finish his check,” he said. “It was a hockey hit, and obviously Stepan got hurt.”

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