With the Rangers trailing, 3-2, Prust knocked Pittsburgh forward Tyler Kennedy to the ice during a battle for a loose puck. At that point Staal stepped in for his teammate and took a run at the Rangers forward. Prust responded by jabbing his elbow in Staal's face which was quickly followed by Staal dropping Prust with a punch across the chin. He was issued a five-minute major and a match penalty, which leaves him open to supplemental discipline from the league. Since the match penalty was called, Staal is automatically suspended for the Penguins next game (Wednesday night at home against the Islanders) pending a league review.
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The Rangers scored on the ensuing power play thanks to a Ryan Callahan tally, tying the game 3-3.
Not surprisingly, reactions were immediate and varied depending on what type of hockey you like, and which team you happen to have a rooting interest in. Mike Milbury and Keith Jones spoke about the play on the Versus intermission report and felt the refs blew the call, while ESPN's John Buccigross felt Prust embellished the play, saying via Twitter, "Terrible call on jordan staal. He get elbowed in the head, pokes Prust with a jab, Prust embellishes and Staal gets tossed. Nhl going soft."
Earlier this month Atlanta Thrashers forward Ben Eager was suspended four games for a sucker punch on Toronto's Colby Armstrong.
With Staal out of the game and facing a potential suspension the Penguins center depth is all but gone. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are still out of the lineup, while Mark Letestu was injured during Tuesday's morning skate.
The Penguins ultimately won the game in a shootout, 4-3, thanks to a goal from rookie Dustin Jeffrey.