What started as an exciting Saturday night matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins – two of the top teams in the NHL – quickly degenerated into an abomination to the sport of hockey.
With 8:54 remaining in the first period and the score tied 1-1, Penguins winger James Neal took a reckless kneeing penalty on Boston’s Brad Marchand. After the whistle sounded, the Bruins’ Shawn Thornton pulled Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik out of a scrum and tripped him, knocking him to the ice.
Although Orpik didn’t appear to be threatening Thornton, the Boston winger pummeled Orpik repeatedly in the face while pinning him down. It was a sickening display that ended with Orpik’s eyes hauntingly wide open while he lay unconscious.
(Video courtesy Jason S. on Vine)
After paramedics assessed his condition, Orpik was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher. Thornton was assessed a match penalty for deliberate attempt to injure, while Neal was given a two-minute minor for kneeing.
The crowd at TD Garden was solemn throughout the ordeal, saluting Orpik with applause when he was taken to a Boston hospital. The 33-year-old United States Olympic hopeful lives in Massachusetts during the offseason.
Neal got a bit of revenge with a power-play goal three minutes of game time later, but the real punishment for Thornton will arrive via the NHL league office and discipline chief Brendan Shanahan.
Thornton might’ve been seeking retribution for Orpik’s hard hit on Boston’s Loui Eriksson earlier in the period, which caused the Boston centerman to leave the game. The check appeared clean, but Thornton tried to goad Orpik into a fight immediately after. Thornton was penalized for roughing and Chris Kunitz followed with a power-play goal to make it 1-0 at 6:33.
UPDATE (9:00 p.m.) – The Penguins have reported Orpik is “alert and conscious” at Massachusetts General Hospital.
UPDATE (10:00 p.m.) - Dave Molinari of the Post-Gazette tweeted that Orpik has been released from the hospital and will fly back to Pittsburgh with the Penguins after their 3-2 loss.
Molinari also reported that coach Dan Bylsma confirmed Orpik was unconscious on the ice. Bylsma said he assumed his veteran blueliner had suffered a concussion.
Follow City of Champions for more news on Orpik’s situation.