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)
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, still upset at the chain of events early in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final, has pointed the finger at linesman Scott Driscoll as being partially to blame.
Vigneault's view all along has been that a missed call on the Brandon Prust hit that broke Derek Stepan's jaw led to a domino effect of mayhem.
Minutes later, New York forward Dan Carcillo was called for charging Prust—a call Vigneault disputes—and Derek Dorsett fights the Montreal agitator. Carcillo watches nearby on the boards, jostling Driscoll as the linesman tries first to corral him and then get him into the penalty box.
"At the end of the day if the right call is made on the ice, that whole situation doesn't happen," Vigneault said Saturday for the third day in a row.
But this time he brought the linesman's actions into the debate.
"Dan didn't have a penalty on that play. There was no penalty there. I still don't understand why Scott grabbed him in that fashion. All Scott had to do was tell him he had a penalty. Dan didn't know he had a penalty. Just 'Can you come to the box with me? Here, you have a penalty,' and it would have been over.
"In that split moment of grabbing him like that—obviously, it's inexcusable what Dan did, but those situations or incidences put one after the other leads to a young gentleman's career moving forward might be very tough here."
Prust, meanwhile, faced the music for the second day in a row.
He heard it from the league Friday, earning a two-game suspension for the late hit. On Saturday, he took the podium at Madison Square Garden to face the media.
Prust, who is a six-foot 194-pound bull in hockey's china shop, was full of regret that a friend and former teammate had been injured.
But he said his offence was one of poor timing, given the Rangers centre had already moved the puck on when he was hit.
"The NHL deems a hit late around .6 seconds, and I'm at .8 seconds, so you know, that's on me," Prust said. "It's late, but for me my focus was on trying to make a good, clean bodycheck and not leave my feet, my elbow's tucked. Everything about the actual contact is clean, it's just it's late."
Prust said he initially did not expected a suspension. But, after hearing the extent of the damage, he changed his assessment to one or two games.
He called the broken jaw an "unfortunate injury"—"unfortunate for him and unfortunate for me."
"I'm not out there trying to injure anybody, and Step's a friend of mine."
Prust's explanation of what happened was an interesting peek into his hockey psyche. With the Canadiens having lost the first two games of the series, he had one goal in mind.
"It's my first shift and first game back at MSG and emotions are going," he explained. "I want to get out there and create contact, and that's kind of my main goal. Especially that is the focus and what we talk about, get out and get physical. Unfortunately, my timing was off."
"I'm looking to turn it around by being physical and making sure we're on the forecheck and making sure I'm playing my style of hockey," he added. "By no means was I looking to injure anybody. I just wanted to create some body contact out there."
Prust said he texted Stepan after learning of the broken jaw.
"I told him exactly what I told you guys. It was my first shift. I'm just trying to create some body contact. I feel awful. You never want to hurt anybody, and I hope he recovers well."
Was there a return text, he was asked?
"Yeah, it was short, but, yeah. I think he understands where I'm coming from. It's a tough situation right now."
Carcillo, who opted not to speak to the media Saturday, has requested that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman review his suspension.
"I would say to you his first comments to me was I know I should have been in better control," said Vigneault. "He knows that. There is no excuse for what happened. Two wrongs don't make a right. Whatever happened before, he should have been in better control there. He knows that.
"I can't begin to tell you how bad he feels about the whole thing. I mean, his situation, his personal future, the team. There is nothing he can do about it now, and there is nothing we can do about it."
Montreal coach Michel Therrien, who had called it a "hockey hit" on Friday, had little to say on the suspension.
"If you agree or not, you've got to respect the decision and you've got to move on," he said. "That is the most important thing. We've decided to move on."
Canadiens captain Brian Gionta called it a "clean hit," albeit a late one.
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