Boston Bruins' fans will remember Saturday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins because of its frantic finish. Penguins' fans will remember the game because one of their defenseman left the game on a stretcher after a dirty play by a Bruins player.
Brooks Orpik was carted off the ice just over halfway through the first period after Bruins' enforcer Shawn Thornton threw him to the ice from behind and punched him in the face, seemingly knocking him unconscious. Thornton received a match penalty for the incident, and will be facing a hearing with the league offices, with a lengthy suspension almost certain. Orpik was taken to Mass General Hospital and released shortly after the game.
The incident marred a great comeback for the Bruins, as they rallied for two goals in the last 90 seconds of the third period to claim a 3-2 victory over the Penguins. David Krejci scored with 1:29 left to tie the game at 2-2, and Zdeno Chara netted the game-winner with just 13 seconds left in regulation. Krejci's goal was scored with the man-advantage, as goalie Tuukka Rask had vacated the net in order to give Boston an extra skater as they tried to net the equalizer.
Reilly Smith scored the other Bruins goal, his sixth of the season, while Chris Kunitz and James Neal found the back of the net for the Penguins.
Neal may also be hearing from the league offices after he kneed Brad Marchand in the head while Marchand was on all fours on the ice. Neal was given a minor penalty for the knee, which led to the stoppage in play in which Thornton blindsided Orpik and knocked him out. Thornton was undoubtedly upset with Orpik after a questionable hit early in the contest which injured Loui Eriksson, who left the game with his second concussion of the year. Eriksson had missed five games earlier this season with concussion symptoms. Thornton had tried to engage Orpik to fight after the hit, drawing a minor penalty for roughing.
Thornton's penalty put the Penguins on the power play, leading to Pittsburgh's first goal of the night. Sidney Crosby stick-handled his way into the Bruins' end, finding Kunitz near the left faceoff circle. Kunitz skated in towards Bruins' goalie Tuukka Rask, and looked to try to pass the puck to a streaking James Neal, who was crashing the net to the right of Rask. The pass deflected off of Bruins' defenseman Zdeno Chara and found its way past Rask for a 1-0 lead. It was Kunitz' 17th goal of the season (4th in the league in goals scored) and Crosby's 27th assist of the year (2nd in the league in assists).
It took the Bruins over ten minutes to get a shot on goal in the game, but they took advantage of their first chance on Penguins' goalie Marc-Andre Fleury by scoring. Brad Marchand took the puck into the Penguins' end, with Patrice Bergeron taking an errant pass from Kunitz to find an open Reilly Smith for a quick slap shot that beat Fleury to tie the game at 1-1.
After Neal and Thornton went to the penalty box for their actions with just over nine minutes left in the first period, the Penguins struck again to take a 2-1 lead. Matt Niskanen made a lengthy pass to a streaking Neal, who had just exited the box after serving his two minutes for kneeing Marchand. Neal scored on a quick wrist shot over the blocker of Rask for his 10th goal of the season.
The Bruins pulled Rask with just under two minutes left in the game, and capitalized with Krejci's game-tying goal with 89 seconds remaining. Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic, and Zdeno Chara all battled down low in the Pittsburgh end for puck control, with Lucic finally securing the puck from the Penguins' defense. With Chara jamming in from of Fleury's net, Lucic tried to make a pass towards the huge defenseman, but the puck was deflected to Krejci who beat the Penguins' goalie for the equalizer. It was Krejci's fifth goal of the year, with Lucic and Iginla recording the assists to tie the game at 2-2.
The Bruins had the puck in the Penguins' end again with time running out in the third, as Bergeron fed Smith down low. Smith took the puck and found an open Chara at center ice, who blasted a wrist shot past Fleury for the game-winner.
The win gives the Bruins the season series over the Penguins, as both teams had won on their home ice in the two previous meetings this season. While it may be another five months until these two teams face each other in the playoffs, the Penguins and their fans will certainly remember what happened to one of their own tonight at the hands of the Bruins.