NEW YORK (AP) — Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton was suspended for 15 games without pay by the NHL on Saturday for punching and injuring unsuspecting Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik.
"It says volumes about getting that kind of play out of the game," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "I think it's a pretty strong message."
Thornton went after Orpik during a stoppage in play on Dec. 7, knocking him to the ice and punching him twice. Orpik was concussed and taken off the ice on a stretcher. Earlier, Orpik hit Boston's Loui Eriksson, knocking him out of the game with a concussion.
Thornton was assessed a match penalty.
Orpik hasn't played since the game.
"This cannot be described as a hockey play that went bad, or do we consider this a spontaneous reaction to an incident that just occurred," NHL vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan said in the video announcing the suspension.
"It is our view that this was an act of retribution for an incident that occurred earlier in the game, the result of this action by Thornton was a serious injury to Orpik."
The suspension will cost Thornton $84,615. He served three games of the ban before the length of the suspension was determined.
Thornton said in a statement through the Bruins he will make a public comment after he's talked to the team, lawyers and players' union.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said Thornton will exhaust "all rights available to him."