(SportsNetwork.com) - The Boston Bruins were involved in a contentious battle with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday and managed to pick up a win thanks to some late heroics.
The Bruins will jump right back into the fray on Sunday when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre for the first time since beating them in the opening round of last season's playoffs.
David Krejci and Zdeno Chara scored goals 1:16 apart late in regulation on Saturday to send the Bruins to a 3-2 decision over the visiting Penguins, but unfortunately the game will be remembered for a pair of ugly incidents in the first period.
During a scrum which was created by a kneeing call to Pittsburgh's James Neal against a defenseless Brad Marchand with 8:54 remaining in the first period, Bruins forward Shawn Thornton grabbed Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik from behind and punched him twice, the second time as the veteran blueliner was on the ice.
Medical personnel were immediately summoned, and the 33-year-old blueliner was completely immobilized before being loaded onto a stretcher and taken away for evaluation. Following the game, Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma reported that Orpik was out of the hospital and will travel back home with his teammates.
"I made a mistake. I feel awful," Thornton offered in defense.
Thornton drew a match penalty for his actions -- apparently in retribution for a clean but hard hit Orpik laid on Bruins forward Loui Eriksson early in the game. Eriksson was later reported to have suffered a concussion and will not travel with his club for today's game in Toronto.
"Those are unfortunate incidents when you see guys get injured. That's called Eriksson and it's also called Orpik," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien.
Thornton will have an in-person disciplinary hearing with the league, meaning he could face a suspension of greater than five games for his actions. Neal, meanwhile, will have a phone hearing to discuss a possible punishment for his kneeing incident.
The rough stuff overshadowed the late comeback by Boston, which won for the third time in four games thanks to Chara's game-winner with 13 seconds left in regulation. He wristed a shot from between the circles to give Boston a 3-2 lead just 76 seconds after Krejci tied the game.
Reilly Smith also lit the lamp and added the primary assist on Chara's goal for the Bruins, who bounced back from a one-goal loss in Montreal on Thursday and have won seven of their last 10 overall.
Tuukka Rask made 28 saves on Saturday as the hosts kept pace with the first- place Habs in the Atlantic Division. Montreal, which also won Saturday against Buffalo, is one point ahead of the Bruins for the top spot, but Boston could move past the idle Canadiens on Sunday.
Today's clash is the second of four scheduled meetings between the Bruins and Maple Leafs this season. In addition to winning a classic seven-game playoff battle against Toronto in the opening round of last spring's postseason, the Bruins have taken two straight and 10 of the past 11 regular-season matchups in this Original Six rivalry.
Boston recorded a 3-1 win over a visiting Toronto team on Nov. 9 in the first of four scheduled meetings this season between the Atlantic Division foes. Patrice Bergeron notched two goals for the B's and Rask stopped 33-of-34 shots for the victory.
Toronto had lost four straight regular-season games on home ice against the Bruins before ending that slide with a 3-2 regulation victory on March 23 of last season.
The Leafs enter Sunday having won two straight on the heels of a season-worst five-game losing streak. Toronto halted the 0-3-2 slide with an overtime victory Thursday against visiting Dallas and then notched a 4-3 shootout win in Ottawa on Saturday.
James van Riemsdyk scored 97 seconds into the game and again in a shootout to help Toronto down the Senators at Canadian Tire Centre. The Senators rallied from a 3-1 deficit with third-period goals by Erik Condra and Erik Karlsson, but Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer stopped Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek in the shootout to help his team gain the extra point.
The Maple Leafs halted a seven-game road losing streak with the shootout decision. They had lost seven in a row on the road since a win at Calgary on Oct. 30.
Phil Kessel and Jake Gardiner scored in the victory and Reimer had 47 saves.
Toronto is 10-5-0 as the home club this season and is kicking off a two-game homestand on Sunday and will close the brief home stretch against Los Angeles on Wednesday. The Leafs are playing six of their next eight at Air Canada Centre.
The Leafs are currently sitting fifth in the Atlantic Division, five points in back of the Bruins and six behind first-place Montreal.