Penguins’ Orpik taken off ice on stretcher in loss to Bruins
BOSTON — The Penguins lost control of taking two points against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.
They also lost their conscience in a 3-2 defeat at TD Garden.
Brooks Orpik, the longest-tenured and arguably most respected Penguins player, was removed from the ice on a stretcher after he was taken to the ice, then punched in the head while prone by Bruins winger Shawn Thornton.
That happened with eight minutes and 54 seconds remaining in the first period.
Orpik was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital where he was alert and conscious. He was scheduled to accompany teammates on a return flight to Pittsburgh, coach Dan Bylsma said.
“I think he was out (unconscious) on the ice for a period of time, and I think that means he’s got a concussion,” Bylsma said, adding that Orpik underwent a battery of tests and will be re-evaluated in Pittsburgh.
Orpik, per club policy on injured players, was not available for comment.
Thornton, who received a match penalty, will receive a supplemental discipline hearing by the NHL Department of Player Safety.
“It was definitely awful,” Thornton said. “It’s not what you want to see. It’s not what anybody wants to see. I felt sick all game.
“I can’t say I’m sorry enough. It’s tough for me to talk about right now.”
A few Penguins shared their thoughts regarding the situation, but center Brandon Sutter also noted his club failed to hold a 2-1 lead in the final 90 seconds.
Power-play goals by wingers Chris Kunitz (17th) and James Neal (10th) had staked the Penguins that lead in the opening period, which is also when the game turned ugly.
However, the Penguins never added insurance, and the Bruins rallied on center David Krejci’s fifth goal with 1:22 remaining and captain Zdeno Chara’s winner, and seventh marker, with 13 seconds left.
Those goals snapped the Penguins’ five-game winning streak.
For the Bruins, everything started 14 seconds into the game when Orpik checked winger Loui Eriksson high in the offensive zone. Eriksson tried to play a puck out of the zone, but he lost sight of it after a bad bounce off the boards. Orpik did not let up even though Eriksson’s head was turned, but he was not penalized for he hit.
Eriksson did not return.
“The result is we hate to see ‘Lou’ down at that point,” said Bruins winger Jarome Iginla, who played for the Penguins last season.
“Looked like he was … well, we lost him for the game so you hate to see that result. It’s not positive to add anything to it right now.”
About seven minutes later, Penguins defensemen Deryk Engelland and Milan Lucic had a short skirmish that resulted in respective fighting majors,
About four minutes passed before Penguins captain Sidney Crosby tripped Bruins winger Brad Marchand near the Boston bench. Neal skated past and clipped Marchand in the head with his knee.
“I was skating by him,” Neal said, noting he had not seen a replay of his hit, which resulted in a minor penalty for kneeing. “I hit him in the head with my leg or my foot or my knee or my shin area; I don’t know. He went down. I guess I need to try and avoid him.
“I need to be more careful and get my knee out of the way. I’m not trying to hit him in the head or injure him or anything like that.”
Marchand said he “could not comment” on Neal’s hit.
Bylsma said Neal “didn’t make an attempt to get out of the way on Marchand.”
Neal is scheduled for a hearing by phone with NHL officials. He was suspended for one game in the 2012 playoffs for hits on the Flyers’ Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier.
Thornton, who said he prides himself on defending teammates, has never been suspended.
He is a reputable fighter, though.
Orpik is not, and Penguins teammates noted that Orpik declined Marchand’s offer to fight before Thornton dropped him.
“I understand that sometimes a guy is going to stick up for his teammate after a big hit — that’s something that’s been a part of hockey for a long time,” Crosby said. “It was obvious (Orpik) didn’t want to (fight).
“He’s our top defenseman. You can’t be in the box for five minutes. From what I saw, (Orpik’s hit on Eriksson) was pretty clean. If they want to make it a point to go after him and finish their hits and play tough on him because he did that, I think Brooks is more than willing to take care of himself.
“I don’t think there’s any room for (Thornton’s attack).”
Neither did Penguins officials.
Bylsma bit down hard on his lower lip during post-game remarks.
General manager Ray Shero showed no expression as he walked the hallways outside the visiting dressing room.
Tom Fitzgerald, the Penguins assistant to the general manager, tersely viewed replays shown on TD Garden media level televisions during the first intermission.
Crosby, his face suggesting near disbelief, said he was not really sure what to make of Saturday night.
His Penguins will try to regroup, but they are now down three top-four defensemen because of injuries to Orpik (concussion), Rob Scuderi (ankle) and Paul Martin (foot).
“That’s a lot more minutes for a lot more guys,” Bylsma said. “I think we’re capable back there.”