Gregory Campbell is gone from the NHL’s Eastern Conference final, felled with a broken leg by a slap shot from Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Evgeni Malkin, but his sacrifice was the talk of the Boston Bruins dressing room.
When Campbell blocked that shot while killing a penalty in the second period of Wednesday’s marathon 2-1 overtime win over the Penguins, then stayed on the ice for nearly a minute despite his injury, it provided a big lift to the Bruins.
The Penguins had just tied the game two minutes earlier and scoring on that power play would might have turned the tide in a game they were already dominating.
But the Bruins hung on after that and got the game into overtime, finally finding a way to win more than 15 minutes into the second extra period for a 3-0 best-of-seven series lead.
Campbell, 29, is out for the rest of the playoffs but his actions may serve as close to a rallying cry for the Bruins to finish a sweep in Game 4 on Friday.
“I wouldn’t say ‘rally,’ but we talked about it,” Campbell’s linemate Shawn Thornton said. “We don’t want that to go to waste. It takes a big step to lay down in front of a slapper like that, and, obviously, you saw him play on a broken leg for 45 seconds. You want to play well for him after that, that’s for sure.”
While there is a history of player heroics despite severe injury going back to Bobby Baun’s game-winning goal on a broken leg in overtime for the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Detroit Red Wings in the 1964 Stanley Cup final, Thornton says it takes a rare courage to first step in front of a shot coming from someone such as Malkin and then keep playing and even try to block another shot.
“Maybe 95 per cent?” Thornton said when asked how many players would have just stayed down when they were hit by the puck, and then considered if he would have done the same as Campbell.
“You’d like to think so, but it’s easier said than done, especially when a guy like Malkin is about to shoot. There’s that split second before he shoots when you have to think.”
Ironically, there was a similar act of bravery on the Penguins side in the same game, as defenceman Brooks Orpik soldiered on despite the obvious pain from a thundering hit he took from Bruins winger Milan Lucic that sent him face-first into the glass in the second overtime period. Orpik appeared stunned by the blow and had trouble getting back to the bench.
But he returned to the game and was the defenceman Patrice Bergeron eluded to score the winning goal for the Bruins.
On Thursday, head coach Dan Bylsma – who had to fend off queries about his job security given the favoured Penguins perilous state – implied Orpik had no ill effects from the hit, although he said there was no update on his condition.
Whatever Orpik’s condition is, according to Bylsma, “it doesn’t have ramifications of the hit last night, no.”