BOSTON -- The final regular-season meeting between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins featured playoff-level physical play, including 67 hits, and ended as the third one-goal game between last spring's Eastern Conference finalists.
Boston scored twice in the final 1:29, including Zdeno Chara's with 13 seconds left, to snap the Penguins' season-high five-game winning streak and prevail 3-2 at TD Garden on Saturday night.
"Yeah, it was very hard for me. Since the start of the game it was very physical," Chara said. "There was a lot of emotions involved and it was up-and-down hockey, a lot of scoring chances, very playoff kind of hockey.
"We were behind the whole game. We were just fighting for that tying goal and eventually we got it and then we carried that momentum into basically the end of the game and we were able to score a goal with very little time left in the game, so it was a good game to win for us."
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was taken from the ice on a stretcher after a first-period altercation with Bruins forward Shawn Thornton. Orpik was released from the hospital Saturday night and was expected to travel back to Pittsburgh with the team.
"Listen I feel awful. It wasn't my intention for that outcome," Thornton said. "I know Brooksie. I've gotten to know him over the last several years here. I skate with him in the summer through the lockout. I texted him a couple times. I feel awful. It definitely was not I wanted to see or anybody wanted to see."
The Bruins (19-8-2) pulled within one point of the Penguins (20-10-1) and Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Eastern Conference.
"It was a good win for us. We haven't felt real good about our game because of the ups and downs, and tonight it was kind of, like I said, a real weird game, it was a grinding type of game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Didn't seem like a ton of stuff was happening, and for us to kind of grind it out and get those two late goals and get the win in regulation, I think we have to build on that."
Down 2-1 entering the third period, the Bruins had several opportunities to tie the game. Reilly Smith missed an open net, and Chara hit a post. Sidney Crosby could have extended the Penguins' lead but was stopped by Tuukka Rask (28 saves) on a breakaway right after Chara rattled the iron.
With Rask pulled for an extra attacker, David Krejci tied the score at 18:31. Chara fanned on Milan Lucic's pass but Krejci beat Marc-Andre Fleury (18 saves) with a wrist shot from between the circles.
Chara scored the game-winner with a wrist shot from the high slot at 19:47.
Before the first period ended, the Bruins had lost two forwards, Loui Eriksson to a concussion and Thornton to a match penalty.
Thornton injured Orpik by hitting the Penguins player while he was down on the ice. Orpik was alert and conscious at Massachusetts General Hospital, according to the Penguins, and coach Dan Bylsma said Orpik returned from there and would leave with the team.
On the opening shift of the game, Orpik hit Eriksson near the Bruins blue line during a breakout. Eriksson made his way to the bench then to the dressing room after the whistle. He did not return.
Thornton tried to challenge Orpik later in the period but instead was assessed a roughing minor. The Penguins scored on that power play when Chris Kunitz's wrist shot from the left corner deflected off Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg's stick then off Chara's body in front of the net to elude Rask at 6:33.
Smith tied the game 1-1 with a one-timer from the left dot at 10:13 after linemate Patrice Bergeron took a hit along the left wall to set up the score. The shot was the Bruins' first on goal and one of five in the first period to Pittsburgh's 13.
During a stoppage in play at 11:06, Thornton joined a scrum involving Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang, Orpik and Boston forward Gregory Campbell. Thornton arrived and pulled down Orpik. Thornton was assessed a match penalty for his actions.
"I mean, what do you want me to say? That I was trying to hit him?" Neal said. "No, I'm going by him, I don't get out of the way, like I said. I need to be more careful and I guess get my knee out of the way, but I'm not trying to hit him in the head or injure him or anything like that."
The NHL announced Saturday night that Neal will have a telephone hearing with the Department of Player Safety on Monday. It also said Thornton will have an in-person hearing at a date to be determined.
The Penguins did the best they could to refocus on the game after Orpik left in that manner.
"Pretty quiet [on the bench]," Crosby said. "Like I said, it's hard to focus on hockey when you see a teammate and a friend just lying there, and he's motionless. You don't know what's wrong with him. We hear he's doing OK, but it's definitely kind of a different scenario when you're sitting there and it's quiet. The whole building was pretty quiet. I think they realized it was pretty vicious."
After the teams skated 4-on-4 for two minutes, the Penguins scored once during the remainder of Thornton's penalty. Neal came out of the box and caught a stretch pass from Matt Niskanen at the Boston blue line. From the left dot, Neal beat Rask to the short side with a wrist shot at 13:13 for a 2-1 lead.
Pittsburgh didn't capitalize on two power plays in the second period. Rask got help from Seidenberg, who made a save on Jussi Jokinen's one-timer during one of the power plays when Rask was unable to get into position.
That set up the third-period dramatics.
"We did a pretty good job until the end," Crosby said. "They pull their goalie, put on some pressure, and then score on that chance. And then, pretty frustrating to give up that last one there, with 13 seconds left. I don't feel like we really thought the game was out of hand at any point. I think we made a couple mistakes that hurt us."
The Bruins open a four-game road trip against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday before heading to Western Canada. The Penguins host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday.
|PPG - Chris Kunitz (17) ASST: Sidney Crosby (27), Matt Niskanen (11)|
1 - 0 PIT
|Reilly Smith (6) ASST: Patrice Bergeron (6)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - James Neal (10) ASST: Matt Niskanen (12), Simon Despres (2)|
2 - 1 PIT
|David Krejci (5) ASST: Milan Lucic (11), Jarome Iginla (11)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Zdeno Chara (7) ASST: Reilly Smith (13), Brad Marchand (9)|
3 - 2 BOS
|Zdeno Chara Cross checking against Chris Kunitz|
|Shawn Thornton Roughing against Brooks Orpik|
|Milan Lucic Fighting (maj) against Deryk Engelland|
|Deryk Engelland Fighting (maj) against Milan Lucic|
|James Neal Kneeing against Brad Marchand|
|Shawn Thornton Match penalty against Brooks Orpik|
|Chris Conner Hi-sticking against Kevan Miller|
|Brad Marchand Hi stick - double minor against Chris Kunitz|
|Simon Despres Holding against David Krejci|
|Jarome Iginla Holding against Simon Despres|
|Chris Kunitz Slashing against Daniel Paille|
|Chris Kunitz Tripping against Dougie Hamilton|