Penguins' Bonino, Blue Jackets' Werenski show they're bloody tough after pucks to face
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The mythology of playoff hockey is filled with stories of players who gritted their way through gruesome injuries to finish games.
After Sunday night, Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski and Penguins center Nick Bonino added their names to that list.
Both were hit in the face with pucks, and both quickly returned to the game wearing facial protection.
Werenski's injury was particularly gruesome.
Just before Evgeni Malkin scored to forge a 3-3 tie with 6 minutes, 25 seconds left in the second period, Werenski took a deflected Phil Kessel shot under his right eye. After he lay on the ice bleeding for a moment, Werenski dragged himself to the bench.
The Blue Jackets, and especially their fans, were angry referees did not stop play out of concern for Werenski's safety.
According to the NHL rulebook, play should not stop because of injury until the injured player's team gains possession of the puck. Exceptions are sometimes made, however, when a player is in immediate danger.
“It's their call,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “I've seen it called both ways. I don't think we got puck possession, but I've still seen plays like that, the refs blow it right away. They decided not to.”
Werenski returned to play in the third period wearing a face shield. According to Tortorella, he did not play in overtime because his eye swelled up so badly he could not see.
After the game, Werenski tweeted a selfie that showed him with serious bruising and swelling under his eye, stitches to repair a cut and cotton stuffed into his right nostril.
Tortorella said Werenski had “(guts) as big as the building.”
“You talk about leadership from a young guy,” Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. “That one stings more than anything because he's hurting. For him to come back out on the ice and try to help us, you can't say enough about him and what he means to this team.”
Bonino, meanwhile, essentially blocked a shot with his face about five minutes into the first period.
He headed immediately to the locker room for medical attention, then returned before the period was over wearing facial protection.
“Just wanted to make sure there was no head stuff going on,” Bonino said. “But it hurt. It hurt a lot. I came right off, and they took care of me back there. We got that chin strap on pretty quickly, and I was just able to go out, mainly just tried to get through the first to make sure I was OK, and then we took it from there.”
Bonino ended up playing almost 17 minutes in the game.
“All of this talking is not the best thing, but I've got to answer your guys' questions,” he joked afterwards, sporting a gash under his right eye. “No, it should be good to go. We'll check it out after this.”
Stepping in front of a puck is nothing new for Bonino. In the regular season, he led all NHL forwards with 99 blocked shots.
“He's tough,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He's one of our shot blockers. He's one of our penalty killers. He's a guy we go to late in games to defend leads when our opponents pull their goalies. The fact that he takes the puck in the face and we don't lose him for very long, it's a testament to his competitive spirit.”