Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton is facing the first suspension of his long NHL career after an ugly incident on the ice where he took down Brooks Orpik from behind with a slewfoot, and then knocked him out while punching him as he was down on the ice. Orpik was conscious after paramedics worked on him for a few minutes, but was stretchered off the TD Garden ice with what looked like a concussion.
The incident was completely out of character for the 35-year-old Thornton, who has always lived by “The Code” throughout his career and has always made a practice of avoiding hitting guys when in a vulnerable position.
The incident was the result of several borderline/dirty hits from the Penguins that went unpoliced by the game’s referees, first of which was Orpik smoking Loui Eriksson with a hit on the opening shift of the game. Eriksson didn’t have the puck when he got smacked by Orpik and was taken to the B’s dressing room after slowly skating off the ice under his own power.
It was announced later in the first period that Eriksson wouldn’t be returning to Saturday night’s game.
Thornton challenged Orpik later in the first period, but instead earned a roughing penalty when the Penguins defenseman wouldn’t address things with the B’s enforcer. Then later in the first period James Neal kneed Brad Marchand in the head as he was down on the ice, and that’s when Thornton chased down Orpik during a stoppage in play in the Pittsburgh end of the ice.
Thornton was slapped with a match penalty, meaning he is suspended pending a hearing about the incident with Orpik. Though Thornton has a clean record in the NHL’s eyes in his 11-year career, one would expect a hefty suspension coming No. 22’s way after his dangerous, reckless actions that can’t be excused.
One would also hope that the league takes into account an on-ice official crew that let things get completely out-of-hand by allowing Pittsburgh several borderline hits without nipping things in the bud.