The New York Rangers' smooth ride to the Stanley Cup finals has suddenly become much rougher.
Not only did the Rangers 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 Friday.
The Rangers will carry a 2-1 series lead into Sunday's Game 4 in New York.
Stepan was injured 2:48 into the game on a blindside hit by Montreal's Brandon Prust, who wasn't penalized for the shot that left Stepan sprawled on the ice. Prust had a disciplinary hearing with the NHL on Friday and was given a two-game suspension.
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 Friday prompted the Rangers to send him to a specialist. Further tests revealed the fracture, and Stepan's playing status is unclear.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault 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 goalie out of the series with a lower body injury.
"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."
Prust 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 and was ejected. Carcillo was given an automatic 10-game suspension by the NHL on Friday.
"What Dan did was inexcusable," Vigneault said, "but if the call is made on the ice, he's not put in that situation."
Said Montreal coach Michel Therrien, "Brandon Prust's intention was not to hurt Derek Stepan. It was to finish his check. It was a hockey hit."
Blackhawks-Kings: Corey Crawford allowed six goals in just 22 minutes in a series-tying loss to Los Angeles on Wednesday. But Chicago's goalie is determined to bounce back in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals Saturday at Staples Center.
"We've said a million times, not everything is going to go your way all the time," Crawford said. "So we've got to keep playing hard."
The Kings harbor no illusions about the Blackhawks' motivation after their last loss.
"We have no doubt that (Game 2) hasn't affected them," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "They're one of the strongest teams mentally in the league."
The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.