BOSTON — Hockey players are known to be tough. That much is evident given the number of times a hockey player will leave a game briefly to get stitched up or hand over some newly missing teeth to a trainer before hopping right back over the boards and onto the ice.
But in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Gregory Campbell displayed a unique kind of toughness after suffering a serious injury while killing a penalty. His fortitude after the injury was a big part of his team’s eventual 2-1 double overtime win.
It happened in the second period. The Bruins were struggling to stay afloat in the frame amidst a Pittsburgh offensive attack mostly absent for the first two games of the series, but suddenly alive and kicking for Game 3. The Penguins had tied the game 8:51 into the second period, and 2:01 later, the Bruins dug another hole for themselves by taking a too many men on the ice penalty.
Enter Campbell, a fourth-liner who is one of Boston’s go-to players on the penalty kill. He came on with the second penalty kill unit to attempt to keep a Pittsburgh power play that boasted a 28.2 percent success rate entering the series off the board.
Campbell was doing what he does best when he blocked an Evgeni Malkin slap shot which, according to an ESPN source, broke his leg. After absorbing the shot, Campbell refused to lie on the ice and wait for a whistle. Despite being doubled over in pain and unable to skate, Campbell found a way to not only get up, but continue to clog passing and shooting lanes. Twice, he disrupted passes from Kris Letang to Malkin, and he continued to hobble around doing the best he could until the power play ended, the Bruins cleared the zone and he could scoot himself off the ice and to the dressing room.
Since Campbell does not often score goals or chip in on the flashy plays that make highlight reels, he flies under the radar to a national. But his work on that penalty kill did not go unnoticed by the 17,565 at the TD Garden Wednesday night. Campbell received a standing ovation from the crowd, and they chanted his name loud and clear even after he left the ice and hobbled his way to the dressing room.
“They know their hockey,” said Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference of the way the crowd recognized Campbell’s efforts. “Well, you don’t have to know hockey too well to see how gutsy that was, but I think this is obviously a city that appreciates that kind of effort.”
The Bruins clearly appreciated Campbell’s effort as well. His determination to finish his shift seemed to give Boston a boost. In the second period, the Penguins outshot the Bruins 12-3 before Campbell’s injury. After Campbell got hurt, the Bruins turned their game around, outshooting the Penguins by an 8-3 margin through the rest of the period and rattling off five straight shots in their next few shifts to quiet the Penguins down.
The Bruins struggled to put how much Campbell’s effort helped them into words.
“You could see him block that shot and do everything he can to get in the way of the next passes and what not,” Ference said. “I don’t know how to describe it. You saw in the next couple of shifts after that for us, guys really got lifted up. It’s amazing what guys can do in playoffs.”
And while the immediate adrenaline from Campbell’s penalty kill work may have worn off as the game reached the third period and two overtimes, the Bruins said they kept the fourth liner in their thoughts as they tried to win the game for him.
“We’re talking about details, we’re talking about little things that goes a long way, and that block was super,” said Patrice Bergeron. “That’s the way [Campbell] is. He sacrifices the body always for the team, for the better of the team. Obviously we tried to rally behind that and do it for him because he’s a big part of our team on and off the ice.”
For the immediate future, it looks like Campbell’s role will remain off the ice, but even if that hobbled effort was his last shift of these 2013 playoffs, it was a shift that will not soon be forgotten.