This is one of those games that will linger. Not because of the tough loss, but because of two incidents:
The James Neal / Brad Marchand incident
The Neal incident is a rough one, but you have to remember two things:
As good friend @whistler reminded us, there is some history here:
The Neal hit was terrible, and some would say there’s absolutely no excuse for it. But the severity of the Neal incident isn’t even in the same galaxy as what Shawn Thornton did to Brooks Orpik.
Shawn Thornton’s assault on Brooks Orpik
Orpik is out of the hospital and by now has thankfully touched base with his friends and family, but this was something the NHL hasn’t seen since the awful Bertuzzi/Moore incident. There were a few tense moments where NHL fans everywhere thought we had all seen Brooks Orpik play his last game. At that point, this incident became bigger than hockey and bigger than all of us.
This wasn’t like the Marc Savard incident where Brooks Orpik may have been admiring a pass. In this case, Orpik was in a mini-scrum. Thornton skated up from behind, slew-footed him, and started pounding on his face on the ice, even when it was clear he was knocked out. As @jaschiff155 pointed out, this was like an MMA elbow:
In no reality is this remotely okay. Thornton should be getting 20 or 25 games at minimum. Chara didn’t get a suspension for his life-threatening hit on Pacioretty a while back, which we hope isn’t an indication of what the NHL will do in this case.
These two incidents weren't the only dust-ups. Orpik smoked Loui Eriksson on one of the cleaner hits in the last 15 years, Engo and Lucic got into a fight, even Tony Granato and Claude Julien had words. This game will be in the opening montage for the foreseeable future when these two teams battle on a national stage. The Orpik/Thornton situation, especially, will spawn this rivalry to another level.
As far as the game itself, the Pens squandered a 2-1 lead late to lose 3-2 in regulation. But as far as we’re concerned, Brooks Orpik is out of the hospital, and that’s a win to us.
Orpik fucking laid out Eriksson and knocked him out of the game with a clean hit, which should have set the tone for a great physical tilt.
Unfortunately, though, Shawn Thornton is still in the NHL. He went after Orpik and got a penalty. Kunitz added to his Team Canada portfolio by getting credit for a PP goal after a pass of his hit Chara and got past Rask. 1-0.
Either the Bruins were mad that the Penguins were hitting them or that no one feels sympathy for Boston anymore, but the Bruins really starting getting chippy after the Kunitz goal.
Lucic and Engelland fought, and since the Pens haven’t fought for a long time, it was actually fun to see…but then the fight happened. It just looked like a Seal music video until the linesmen separated them and escorted them to their respective boxes.
Then the Bruins tied it. 1-1.
Then we all held our breath as we watched Thornton’s assault on Brooks Orpik unfolded. It was a really scary moment.
The teams played 4-on-4 for two minutes after everything Thornton caused. Neal came out of the box, took a great Niskanen pass in stride, then fooled Rask out of his pads.
Niskanen was dropping bombs from the point like the Enola Gay for a bulk of the remaining 3 minutes of that PP, but the Pens couldn’t get another one.
The rest of the game should have been liberating for the Penguins because no matter what would happen or what they would do would be worse than what Thornton did.
Chris Conner went off for high stick, so the Pens needed to kill that off, and they did. MAF made a big save on Marchand as the penalty ended.
The stretch of the first after the assault on Orpik was pretty subdued, but things changed at the start of the second. Marchand put the stick up into Kunitz, and no one was happy about it in Boston.
Pens had 4 minutes to work with and got a shit load of chances, but the Bruins somehow kept the pucks out of the net.
Then the Pens had to kill a penalty. Then the Bruins had to kill a penalty.
There was craziness. Crosby took on the Bruins 1-on-5 and fed Adams coming late. Adams missed the net. Then Kunitz intercepted a pass and went in on Rask all alone, but he couldn’t get a good shot off.
There was only one PP in the third. The Bruins had it when Chris Kunitz went off for tripping early. The Pens killed it yet again.
Then the Pens were in survivor mode.
THE FINAL FIVE
Maatta had a bad turnover, but the Bruins couldn’t capitalize. They barely had time to register before Crosby was all alone closing in on Rask at the other end. Crosby couldn’t put the nail in.
Then Rask was on the bench, and the Bruins bought themselves plenty of time to try and tie the game. Iginla fed it to Krejci in the slot, and he made no mistake. 2-2.
It was still cool. These are the two heavyweights in the East, so another overtime game would have been fitting. But the Bruins had other plans.
With under 30 left, there was a big faceoff in the Pens’ zone, but they couldn’t win it. The puck eventually found Chara all alone at the point. ALL ALONE. He takes his time, picks his spot, and wrists one past MAF. 3-2.
– Orpik's 3:16 of ice time just sticks out. Eerie.
– Pens were down to five D-men after Orpik was taken off on a stretcher.