December 8, 2013

Orpik incident overshadows Bruins' comeback

By Jesse Connolly

Brooks Orpik was taken off on a stretch  midway through the first period. (Getty Images)

Final: Boston 3, Pittsburgh 2

Recap: In the opening minute of Saturday's contest, Pens d-man Brooks Orpik laid out B's winger Loui Eriksson just inside Boston's defensive blue line, igniting tempers right out of the gate. Shawn Thornton tried to get Orpik to drop the gloves but couldn't, putting the Penguins on the power play. Chris Kunitz tallied to make it a 1-0 game. Eriksson, meanwhile, was ruled out for the remainder of the tilt.

A few minutes later, after Reilly Smith tied the game at 1-1, Brad Marchand was tripped by Sidney Crosby. James Neal blatantly kneed No. 63 in the head while he was down on the ice.

That's when things went way off the deep end.

An irate Thornton knocked Orpik to the ice and punched him 2-3 times. It appears as thouh the last jab was the one to knock the blueliner unconscious, prompting a stretcher to come out to take the former BC Eagle off the ice. 

Neal cashed in on the man advantage with just under seven minutes to go in the frame, giving Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead. The score remained the same until th 18:31 mark of the third, when David Krejci fired home a loose puck in the slot past Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 2-2. With 13 ticks left, Zdeno ripped a wrister past Fleury to give the Bruins a 3-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Records: Boston 19-8-2, 40 points; Pittsburgh 20-10-1, 41 points

Key Play of the Game: The video says it all. 

Connolly's Commendations: Reilly Smith had a hand in two of the B's three goals, scoring the first and setting up the game-winner.

Boston's top two centers dominated on draws. Krejci won 10-of-12, while Bergeron won 17-of-27, again getting the better of Crosby at the dot.

Connolly's Critiques: You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in New England that calls themselves a hockey fan and doesn't love Thornton. A standup guy and the ultimate teammate, No. 22 is arguably the most admirable active Bruin. But his actions in this game -- which are so atypical of his style/usual behavior -- simply can not be explained in a way that paints the fourth-line forward in a positive light.

Thornton, quite simply, lost his mind in the heat of the moment. He's never done so to this extent in his entire Bruins career, and I don't think we'll see him do it ever again. However, I don't think we'll see Thornton at all for the next ten games.

Notes: The Bruins were down two forwards for just under 49 minutes. Boston came in needing Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller to suit up on the blue line. ... Chris Kelly also suffered a lower-body injury on a slash tonight. He's not going to play in Toronto on Sunday.

Final Thoughts: The critiques section sums up just about everything I have to say about this one and the scary incident that defines it. 

Next: The B's will head to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs Sunday at 7pm.

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ