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The New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens will skate against one another Sunday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. That sentence is enough to give you goose-bumps as two of the original-six NHL teams square off for the right to play for the Stanley Cup. Of course it’s enough, but the story-lines are just getting started.
Game 3 was won by the Montreal Canadiens, as Alex Galchenyuk put one past Henrik Lundqvist only 1:12 into the first overtime period, according to CBS Sports. This was completely deflating for the Ranger team that saw Chris Kreider tie it up with under a minute to go in regulation. It was not meant to be however, as the Habs immediately got back into this series, now down two games to one.
It was obvious the media would be buzzing after this one, only they were buzzing for other reasons.
Canadiens' forward (and former Ranger), Brandon Prust, laid a dirty hit on Derek Stepan late in the first period. It was late, and it was vicious - it was an obvious head shot. This action is exactly what the league is so paranoid to avoid.
After going to the locker room, Stepan emerged in the second and actually played the rest of the game. However, the next day, team doctors discovered that Stepan had a fracture in his jaw and needed to go under the knife immediately, and his status for the remainder of the series is unknown.
On top of the disgusting act by Prust, Rangers forward Dan Carcillo elbowed an official. It happened while a fight broke out on the ice, while the official aggressively restrained Carcillo. It seemed he did not mean to make contact with him, but any resistance put up by a player at all calls for a very harsh suspension.
It was blatantly obvious that both Prust and Carcillo were in trouble.
The suspensions handed out were these: Prust received two games and Carcillo was hit for 10. Needless to say, the Rangers were irate (despite not making it public). They were fuming because of the loss of their number-one center, Stepan, on what was a clear dirty play by Prust.
Before Game 3, it was Montreal who felt that anger as they lost their starting goalie and best player, Carey Price, to injury for the remainder of the series. In Game 1, Kreider was tripped into Price, and a collision ensued. The Habs called it reckless (only after the injury was revealed). Everybody else called it unfortunate, as it was a clear-cut hockey play gone wrong.
This brings us to Saturday, where Montreal head coach, Michel Therrion, took issue with Rangers assistant coach, Ulf Samuelsson. During the Canadiens practice, Therrion skated off the ice to have some words with Samuelsson because he was watching them practice. Therrion claims that this violated a “gentlemen’s agreement” and was not pleased, thus adding to this drama.
"Coaches are not allowed to attend practices between games," Therrien said. Game day is different,” according to Associated Press.
Although the Rangers are still incensed about losing Stepan to a cheap shot, they will have the services of center Derrick Brassard for Game 4. In such a crucial game at this point in the series, will tempers flare early, or will both teams play it smart? We do know this about hockey players: they run with their teammates like it’s their family. If you hurt one, you hurt them all.