Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik is recovering from an apparent concussion after he was dragged to the ice from behind by Boston Bruins winger Shawn Thornton and repeatedly punched while defenseless in the first period Saturday night at TD Garden.
In a chippy game that included some early questionable hits, including Pittsburgh's James Neal delivering what he claims was an unintentional knee to the head of Boston's Brad Marchand, Thornton skated toward an oblivious Orpik and quickly threw him back-first onto the ice and proceeded to pummel him as the video above shows.
“I think he was out on the ice for a period of time, and I think that means he's got a concussion,” Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma said after Boston won the game, 3-2, to end Pittsburgh's five-game winning streak.
Orpik was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital. Bylsma said he was alert and conscious. Orpik was expected to make the return flight to Pittsburgh with his teammates.
Thornton, who later apologized, received a match penalty and his actions will be under review by the league office.
“It was definitely awful,” Thornton said after the game. “It's not what you want to see. It's not what anybody wants to see. I felt sick all game.
“It's hard for me to talk about right now. I can't say I'm sorry enough. I'm sure I'll be criticized, but it's true. It wasn't my intention. I know Brooksie. I've gotten to know him the last seven years here. I skated with him during the lockout. I texted him a couple of times. It's not what I wanted to see or anyone to see.”
One person who was outraged at the play and chastised the NHL for its weak enforcement of penalties in cases of brutality was Hall of Famer Chris Chelios, now an analyst with Fox Sports.
"If history repeats itself, the league will justify whatever decision they want, fair or not," Chelios said. "There is no consistency in suspensions and always double standards with the players involved."
Orpik delivered the first big hit in the opening minute, crushing Bruins winger Loui Eriksson with a high check as he tried to play the buck off the boards. No penalty was given on the play, but Eriksson was injured and did not return to the game.
About midway through the period, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby tripped Marchand near the Boston bench. When Neal skated past he clipped the fallen Marchand in the head.
”I was skating by him,“ said Neal, who was given 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."
Wire and other media reports contributed to this post.