The Bruins and Penguins played for the third and final time of the regular season on Saturday night, and seemingly set the tone for what could be a vicious and wild playoff series.
James Neal's first period breakaway goal through the five hole of Tuukka Rask looked like it would hold up as the Penguins took a 2-1 lead into the final minutes of the third period.
But David Krejci's goal with 1:29 remaining tied the game, and with just 13 seconds left, Zdeno Chara scored the game-winner in a stunning 3-2 Bruins win.
The fireworks capped off what had been a heated and ugly affair in the early going.
Chris Kunitz and Reilly Smith had traded goals in the opening 10 minutes of the game before the Neal power play score, but the real story until the wild finish was the ugliness that took place in the opening 20 minutes.
Brooks Orpik flattened Loui Eriksson with a giant hit in the opening shift of the game, and knocked the Swedish forward out of commission for the rest of the game. Later in the period Neal caught a prone Marchand down on the ice with a knee to the head, and that enraged Shawn Thornton, who had tried unsuccessfully to engage Orpik in a fight earlier in the game.
So Thornton took matters into his own hands during a stoppage in play, took Orpik down with a slewfoot from behind and then battered the Pens defenseman in the head with a pair of punches that knocked Orpik. The Penguins defenseman was taken to Mass General Hospital after being stretchered out of TD Garden, and Thornton is likely facing a long suspension after getting tossed with a match penalty.
There was no excuse for Thornton’s actions in this day and age of the NHL, but it was pretty clear he snapped after seeing liberties taken against several of his teammates. Referees Brad Meier and Gord Dwyer didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory seizing control of the game when things started coming apart in the first period.