The hit, occurring in the third minute of the second period of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, was dealt to the head from a blindside with an elbow.
Although this was nowhere near the same level of ghastliness as the concussive first-round hit by Phoenix’s Raffi Torres on Chicago’s Marian Hossa, Prust likewise escaped a variety of citations from the on-ice officials. He ought not to expect the same lack of consequences once league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan is finished reviewing the incident.
The NHL’s official play-by-play account of the game has Prust’s hit occurring three seconds and one play after his snap shot was repelled by Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur.
Volchenkov beat Prust to the fugitive puck as it skipped to the far corner in New Jersey territory. All the while, Prust had his adversary lined up for what could have easily been an unobjectionable, shoulder-on-shoulder hit.
But Volchenkov spooned the puck off the glass and into neutral ice and then pivoted back as Prust approached. One could argue that Volchenkov needlessly put himself in a vulnerable position by abruptly turning his back on the Ranger forechecker, but Prust still had no business raising his arm as high as he did.
Had Prust made contact with the numbers on Volchenkov’s back, it would have been a much less impactful, albeit still questionable, open-ice check. At worst, it might have constituted a cross-checking infraction and warranted a two-minute sentence had it caught the eye of either referee.
Instead, with only his right hand on his stick, Prust elevated his right elbow and made sharp contact with the back of Volchenkov’s head, throwing him into the boards and down on all fours in the process.
Prust’s utter lack of prudence when much more of it was possible should be Shanahan’s deciding factor and force the Rangers to plug in a substitute forward for Game 4 on Monday.