BOSTON – The rivalry between the Penguins and Boston has been heating up for a while.
But it turned downright ugly during the Bruins’ 3-2 victory victory at TD Garden tonight.
And not because Boston earned two points with a couple of late goals, including Zdeno Chara’s game-winner with 13 seconds left in regulation.
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was removed from the ice on a stretcher after being attacked by Boston enforcer Shawn Thornton.
Orpik, who had delivered several crushing hits, including one that knocked Bruins forward Loui Eriksson out of the game on the first shift, was knocked to the ice in the Penguins’ end by Thornton, who then punched him in the head several times while he was down at 11:06 of the opening period.
There was no immediate word on the nature or severity of Orpik’s injuries, although it seems virtually certain that he sustained at least a concussion.
He was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, and team officials described him during the second intermission as “alert and conscious.”
Thornton was assessed a match penalty and almost certainly faces additional discipline from the league.
That incident occurred seconds after one inside the far blue line, during which Bruins winger Brad Marchand appeared to be tripped by Penguins center Sidney Crosby, then was kneed in the head by Penguins left winger James Neal.
Neal received a two-minute minor for kneeing and seems likely to hear from the league office, as well.
Penguins right winger Pascal Dupuis had been questionable because of an injury sustained during a 5-1 victory against San Jose Thursday but was in the lineup for the 230th consecutive game.
The Penguins, however, played their second consecutive game without center Evgeni Malkin, who is listed as day to day after receiving an unspecified injury during the game-day skate Thursday.
The Penguins had an encouraging update on defenseman Rob Scuderi, who is recovering from surgery to repair a broken ankle. Coach Dan Bylsma said it is “conceivable” that he will return to practice this week.
Chris Kunitz gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 6:33 of the opening period, when his centering pass from the left side hit Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara in front of the net and caromed past goalie Tuukka Rask.
The goal, Kunitz’s team-leading 17th, earned assists for Crosby and Matt Niskanen and extended Kunitz’s scoring streak to seven games, matching the longest of his career.
It gave the Penguins at least one man-advantage goal in six consecutive games.
Although the Penguins recorded the first eight shots of the game, the Bruins scored on the first one they threw at goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, as Reilly Smith beat him with a slap shot from above the left dot at 10:13.
Neal gave the Penguins a small measure of revenge for the attack on Orpik when he scored while the Bruins were shorthanded because of Thornton’s penalty.
He beat Rask with a wrist shot from above the left dot for his 10th of the season, off assists from Niskanen and Simon Despres.
Rask, meanwhile, kept Boston alive by denying Crosby on a breakaway with 2:17 left in regulation and was rewarded when David Krejci beat Fleury from the slot at 18:31.
The Penguins, who had a five-game winning streak snapped, will return home to face Columbus Monday evening.