Emotions boiled over in a game between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night, resulting in a pair of ugly incidents.
Tensions rose in the first period when Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik hit Bruins forward Loui Eriksson with what appeared to be a clean hit. Thornton attempted to engage Orpik in a fight, but the defenceman declined the invitation.
Later on the same shift, the stick of Penguins captain Sidney Crosby became entangled in the skates of the Bruins' Brad Marchand. Marchand fell to the ice and, as he was prone, the knee of Penguins' James Neal made contact with Marchand's head.
As a scrum ensued following the kneeing incident, Thornton skated in behind Orpik, pulled him to the ice from behind with a slew foot and delivered several punches to his head, knocking him unconscious. Orpik was stretchered off the ice after a lengthy delay.
Neal received a minor penalty for kneeing and Thornton received a match penalty with intent to injure for his attack on Orpik.
The ball is now in the court of Brendan Shanahan and the NHL Department of Player Safety as the league will look to mete out supplementary discipline.
But what does each player deserve?
The chain of events was set in motion by Orpik's hit and his refusal to engage with Thornton.
One of the league's heavyweights, Thornton has never been suspended before in his career, but his attack on Orpik was clearly premeditated by what happened earlier in the shift.
In an interview that ran on ESPN.com this week, Thornton was asked about the future of fighting in the NHL, Thornton positioned himself as a proponent of "the code."
"I've been a firm believer my whole life that what goes around comes around," Thornton told ESPN. "If you're one of those guys that suckers someone when they're down or you go after somebody that doesn't deserve it or isn't the same category as you, that will come back and bite you at some point, too."
Does this fall into that category and, if so, will it come back and bite him?
Neal has been suspended twice before. In 2009, as a member of the Dallas Stars, Neal received two games for a hit from behind on the Columbus Blue Jackets' Derek Dorsett. Then, in the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Neal received one game for a charge on Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Considering that Neal is a repeat offender and Marchand's prone status, what, if anything, does Neal deserve?
Before the NHL hands down its suspensions, weigh in with how you would deal out justice in tonight's incidents.
What suspensions should be handed out?
As always, it's Your! Call.